HARRISON, N.J. — The fans filling the stands behind one of the goal lines kept singing and chanting and clapping and drumming, filling the warm night air at Red Bull Arena with a joyous soundtrack in support of the home team.
The away team didn’t do much to spoil the party.
It really couldn’t do much, playing nine vs. 11.
Ultimately, Real Salt Lake completed the 17th game of its 34-game run with a 1-0 setback against the recently reeling New York Red Bulls, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
Let’s just say RSL played a bit shorthanded in this game, finishing the final 40 minutes with just nine guys after receiving its second red card of the night. That went with a handful of other missing feet at the start.Maybe losing just 1-0 wasn’t so bad.
“It was extremely difficult, especially when you’re behind the 8-ball, giving up a goal in the first (five) minutes,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. “Credit to the players for fighting back. Even down to nine, we were still trying to play.”
RSL has played an uneven first half of the season, with five wins, six losses and six draws, including injuries, suspensions, international calls and formation adjustments having a large impact.
“I think our record shows where we’re at right now,” Cassar said. “Some good. Some bad. Getting better in some areas. Need to improve in others. But with these kind of efforts in the last two games that we’ve had with Kansas City at home and this kind of effort, I think we’re going to have a very good second half of the year.”
RSL, now eighth in the West but two points out of the playoff picture, spent this past Sandy Sunday stopping a three-game MLS winless skid, edging Sporting Kansas City 2-1.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman, though, amassed one too many yellow cards so he was suspended for the Red Bulls game. And striker Alvaro Saborio was out due to “personal reasons” for the second straight game. His absence will continue until he’s done with Gold Cup play in a Costa Rica uniform.
Defenders Chris Schuler (meniscus) and Jamison Olave (groin strain) missed the game, too. RSL lost another man in the 40th minute when midfielder Javier Morales drew a red card. RSL lost another in the second half when defender Demar Phillips saw red as well.
But the Red Bulls, who moved to 5-5-5, had RSL running uphill when it was still 11 vs. 11.
Kemar Lawrence, operating alone along the left side of the goal line, moved in toward the edge of the 18-yard box, then sent the ball to the top left of the 6-yard box. Sean Davis slid it ahead to Mike Grella at the right doorstep for the easy score in the fourth minute. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando didn’t have a chance.
Morales called RSL’s play in the first 10 minutes “a little sleepy.”
Then Morales had to call it an early night.
New York goalkeeper Luis Robles flung the ball way up field. Felipe Martins tried to run down the bouncing ball, but Morales came sliding from the side, cutting the legs out from under him.
“I always try to play good soccer,” Morales said. “It happens.”
In the 55th minute, it happened again. Phillips took down Connor Lade as they met at a loose ball.
“That was a good tackle,” Cassar said. “No one got hurt. And we got a red card. It’s just unacceptable. And it changed the game.”
Because then there were nine.
Rimando saw a lot of traffic in front of him the rest of the game.
“It seems like it is easy to score, but it becomes quite difficult,” Grella said. “We’re very happy with the result and we’ll move on.”
The Red Bulls outshot RSL 23-4 — 11-1 after the intermission.
“It was very tough, but not close to what it was for the guys in front,” Rimando said after finishing with six saves. “Those guys’ commitment and discipline showed a lot of pride out there.”