HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls wouldn’t call it a trap game, but it was evident in a 2-2 draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps that they didn’t bring the same intensity displayed in an emotional 1-0 win over Atlanta United on Sunday to the midweek tilt against a non-conference opponent.
“It’s a game that we should win, especially at home and especially after the performance against Atlanta,” Brian White said. “I think we let ourselves down a little bit in not coming out with a win and that’s just something we need to live with and learn from and move on.”
That, perhaps, is the missing piece for this team, to play with the consistency to win midweek games or beat so-called inferior teams as opposed to the marquee matchups. It’s also part of the education of some of the team’s younger professionals and there were several in the starting XI Wednesday night.
“It’s easy to get up for those games — Atlanta, LA Galaxy, big time teams on the weekend. It’s a lot harder mentally to regroup and do it again midweek,” Luis Robles said. “And that’s part of the learning process. … there’s not a ton of guys who really understand what’s required to get results midweek because it really is about the mentality. It really is about how you approach the game and how you’re able to regroup under 72 hours and do it again. And the teams that have done very well and won Supporters’ Shields for this organization, they figured that out.”
Rough night for Nealis
The game was also a learning experience for rookie defender Sean Nealis, who started in place of the suspended Tim Parker. His missed clearance led to the Whitecaps first goal and, following Video Review, he was called for a hand ball in the box that resulted in Fredy Montero’s equalizer from the spot.
“Just keep working,” Robles said of his advice for Nealis. “He’s got a great mentality and you use the word mistakes and, of course, someone can label it that, but the way I see is it’s just learning opportunities, and we have a lot of confidence in Sean. As you can see, he’s had some great games, and he’s playing in a new system, new tactics, new league. As long as he continues to keep his head down and work, value learning and constantly self evaluating and improving, he’s got a big future here.”
Nealis had six headed clearances, won eight aerial duels, had 22 successful passes in the Whitecaps’ half and 28 in his own half. But defenders are often judged on their mistakes.
“He puts out 20, 30, 40 fires tonight on plays that he does well on, maybe a couple slip. But he’s a young player, he gives a lot,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “So we’ll always look and try to learn from it, and he is — that’s why he’s out there. He’s got courage and he’s growing quickly.”
Duncan earns call-up
On Wednesday, US Soccer announced a squad of 21 who were called up to a summer training camp ahead of the Concacaf Gold Cup. Of those players, Duncan was one of 10 U-23 players selected to participate in the camp, but is not eligible to participate in the Gold Cup. He’s also one of 13 players eligible to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Robles said he saw quality in Duncan from the first time they met — before preseason opened last season. And he’s seen the Brooklyn, New York native, who played left and right back on Wednesday, mature from that point.
“Right away you can see that this guy has talent and to see the way that he’s developed to see the way that this organization is believes in him and cultivated that talent. Now it’s manifested in a call-up to the U-23s and I’m just proud of him,” Robles said. “I’m proud to be his teammate and I keep harping on him, and all the younger guys, have that white collar expectation, you’re a white collar talent, but you have to have a blue collar mentality of coming to work every single day and improving and improving improving. And if he does that, and the other young guys do that, then not only will this organization benefit, but in their own personal journey as a professional, they’re going to be able to reap those rewards as well.”