HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls nearly had a flawless three-match home stand, the perfect anecdote to an unforeseen start to the season that had the MLS record-breakers stranded near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
But coming off a marquee statement against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, the Red Bulls (3-5-2, 11 points) fell flat in the second half against the Montreal Impact (6-4-2, 20 points), losing 2-1 Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena.
“This is a game that, especially at this point in the season, we want to get three points,” midfielder Sean Davis said. “For us to come away with nothing is really frustrating.”
Just as on Saturday, a central defender broke the first-half deadlock. This time, instead of Amro Tarek, it was Aaron Long. An unmarked Long connected nonchalantly with a floated ball from Marc Rzatkowski in the 36th minute, celebrating in the same north corner as Tarek four days prior. It was the third straight game a defender has contributed a goal for New York.
The Red Bulls triumvirate at the back of Tarek, Long and Tim Parker, flanked by Lade and Kemar Lawrence, played together for the second consecutive game – only the second time this season the same backline has played together for consecutive games.
But, also for the second game, New York failed to hold its initial advantage. Montreal forward Maximiliano Urruti, veering into the box off a short corner, curled a deceptive ball in the 64th minute that hung like a cross but flew with intent. Zakaria Diallo leaped and got just enough of the ball to claim the goal, tying the contest.
Then, in the 78th minute, Long’s once-promising night took a turn for the worse with one swell motion of the arm. He extended his arm enough to warrant Anthony Jackson-Hamel hitting the grass, more crucially, enough for referee Alex Chilowicz to award the penalty.
Urruti, fresh off his bending assist, passed the ball to the left of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, who dove right, putting Montreal into the driver’s seat for its first regular-season win at Red Bull Arena.
Long cannot recall a night with such a swing of emotions, from the high of his first-half goal to the low of his second-half penalty and exit due to hamstring tightness. Long is wary and uncertain of the extent of his injury, but is eyeing a short-term absence.
“Super weird game,” Long said. “Missed an open header, pulled a hamstring and then gave up a penalty. It’s just a tough game for me, it’s one that – I don’t think that’s ever happened to me like that before.
“It sucks, especially going through a hard time, I want to be out there. Saturday is probably unlikely, but hopefully it’s not too bad and I can be out there for the next game…Atlanta at home.”
A small patch of Montreal fans who made the midweek trip watched from the north balcony as, for the first time in 10 tries, the Impact earned a result in Harrison; sweeter than that, all three points.
The Red Bulls will look to right their form Saturday, when they travel to Frisco, Texas, to take on FC Dallas. With his suspension lifted, Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra came on as a second-half substitute Wednesday and will garner consideration to start that match.
“Nothing with Kaku has changed in terms of our commitment to him,” head coach Chris Armas said. “We’ve even see tonight how he can calm things down and change the game.”