Mike Petke’s first lesson as a head coach? Never take a lead for granted.
The New York Red Bulls closed out the first half with an impressive 3-1 lead. The second half saw that advantage dwindle away. Portland used New York’s heavy veteran legs against them, pinning the team back for the final 45 minutes and pulling even in the process.
“They are at home.” Petke explained. “We came out with a mindset that we needed to save the lead instead of keep doing what we were doing in the first half. That falls on the coaching staff first and foremost. Maybe we should have made it clearer. Maybe we should have emphasized it more.”
New York took the early lead on a miscommunication between Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts and veteran French defender Mikael Silvestre. A poorly judged back pass to his keeper caused all the confusion needed for Red Bulls’ newcomer Fabian Espindola to pouch the ball and send New York ahead.
Portland’s new Designated Player Diego Valeri leveled the score minutes later with a brilliant individual effort. Juggling a difficult through ball, the Argentine enganche played the attempt to himself, broke through his defenders, chested down the ball and sent a one touch shot past Luis Robles.
Silvestre’s nightmare night was not done. Fullback Kosuke Kimura sent an apparent harmless ball through to Espindola who once again beat the 37 year old defender, this time one on one, and sent a shot past Ricketts to regain the advantage.
New York’s relentless pressure continued, and Silvestre remained the target. A corner in the 28th minute found Heath Pearce on the far side of the net. The Red Bulls defender sent a return feed across the goal mouth, finding Jamison Olave for the third and final goal of the half.
The second half was also a dominating affair, but this time, it was Portland doing the attacking. The Timbers regrouped, retooled and took advantage of New York’s prevent-first mentality. Valeri was pushed to a more advanced role while Timbers forward Darlington Nagbe was unleashed upon New York’s unproven and untested backline.
The result? A 56th minute strike by the Argentine playmaker forced Red Bulls keeper Robles to bat away the rebound. Nagbe was there to pick up the pieces and cut New York’s lead in half.
New York had no answer to the Timbers attack and would lose their lead for it. Portland continued to pour on the pressure, testing New York’s backline and forcing the team into a shell. By the 86th minute, the Timbers leveled the score. Robles batted away a scorching Nagbe shot which fell at the feet of late game substitute, Jose Valencia. His feed back into the box hit off the leg of Olave and into the net for the own goal.
Portland continued to put pressure on New York well into stoppage time, but that is where the game would end.
“I don’t think anybody is happy right now, because we had it, and they scored in the 83rd (minute),” Fabian Espindola said about the road point. “We could have lost too, like I said, they are good.”
New York will look to rebound as they face the San Jose Earthquakes next Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium.