With the Union trailing by a goal against bitter Eastern Conference rival the New York Red Bulls, manager John Hackworth decided to make a substitution.
For the past few games, Hackworth’s second half substitutions have made him look like a genius.
See last Saturday’s win over Pumas with Michael Farfan as a late sub – who scored.
Or Antoine Hoppenot, who came on in the waning minutes and assisted on Jack McInerney’s first goal of the season in a win over Colorado two weeks before.
In this match against the Red Bulls, a 61st minute substitution to bring on Conor Casey for Sebastien Le Toux paid dividends just two minutes later when Casey evened the score, nullifying a Red Bulls goal from Dax McCarty in the 55th minute.
But here’s the thing…
Two minutes prior to Casey entering the match, Red Bulls coach Mike Petke brought on forward Thierry Henry, who like Casey scored for his club.
Unfortunately, Henry’s proved the game winner in a 2-1 loss for the Union at Red Bull Arena, giving New York its first win of the season and for the Union their second loss of the 2013 campaign.
In addition, the Union fell to 0-6 all-time at Red Bull Arena. And after four league matches, the club sits on six points (2-2-0, MLS; 3-2-0 overall).
“I don’t think we did what we needed to do [to walk away with a point], but in the end it’s still tough to swallow,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “We are going to be attack oriented we are going to go for wins on the road and unfortunately we fell behind before we made a couple changes…it’s a frustrating loss.”
The customary cliché is to call something a tale of two halves, but in this case it’s warranted as the Union kept the Red Bulls attack at bay. In the first, the Red Bulls had seven attempts on goal, but as the stat sheet would confirm, zero were on target as thwarted chances from the Union defense coupled with New York’s inability to put a shot on frame kept the game close.
However, the second half saw a much different story as the Red Bulls found pockets in behind the defense and closed out with a goal that was classic Henry, controlling a cross down in the box and ripping far post past Zac MacMath.
“He found himself free behind our two center backs, trapped it with his thigh and just turned and hit it,” said MacMath, postgame of Henry. “It’s tough because all the guys that played today were tough and put a lot of fight into it. To give up a goal like that and to go down like that late is very tough on the whole mentality of the team.”
One big positive however was Casey’s appearance which followed with an affirmation postgame that he’s back to feeling at full strength. Casey picked up a knock in the season opener against Sporting Kansas City but has muscled his way back into the team’s lineup.
“It was nice, it was really nice to get back out there especially after being out for the first couple weeks,” said Casey. “It was a good feeling, but we came here to try and get three points and we weren’t successful so obviously that’s disappointing for us. But I feel good, I had a really good preseason under me and unfortunately picked up a little ding in the first game, but the [training staff] has done a great job to get me healthy and I’m ready to go now.”
It’s a match the Union looks to put in the rearview as a game next Saturday away against Columbus (5 p.m., Live Well Network) is up next on the docket.
“This is a tough one, but we have Columbus next so it’s important now that we focus our energy on that match,” said midfielder Danny Cruz. “We can’t hang our heads on this one. We made mistakes, but now we go back to the film room, see what we did wrong and work our hardest in training to correct it; plain and simple.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org