While the Red Bulls can start and finish with the best of MLS, it's the middle that leaves them fit to be tied.
A Joel Lindpere brace bookended the Red Bulls' scoring efforts as New York escaped Stanford Stadium with the club's third draw in four matches after a 1-1 result against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. Lindpere provided the offensive touch for the visiting side with an early strike in the 7th minute and an equalizer in the 85th minute that was temporarily ruled an own goal for Quakes defender Bobby Burling.
Steven Lenhart headed in a long lob pass from the right flank by Steven Beitashour in the 68th minute to give San Jose its only lead of the game after Khari Stephenson converted a gaffe by Bouna Coundoul for a first-half equalizer.
The top of the Eastern Conference shuffled again as the Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union left their respective matches on Saturday with a draw while the Columbus Crew fell 2-0 to FC Dallas, giving New York a one-point nudge into second place.
Estonian Emergence. If Lindpere still isn't enjoying his time on the pitch, he sure isn't showing it in his form.
The Estonian midfielder found himself right in the middle of the Red Bulls' offensive efforts, highlighted by his goal-scoring efforts that salvaged the draw. He always seemed to find himself in the right position to join the attack and the right position to capitalize, especially on his high-bouncing strike that drew the Red Bulls level in the waning moments of the match. He truly started to display the form that made him a revelation to Red Bulls supporters and an MLS All-Star in 2010.
Play of the Game: Lenhart's Golazo. While the sequence that created Lenhart's go-ahead goal seems fitting here, it doesn't do justice to the defensive breakdown that plagued the Red Bulls in the second half.
Beitashour's lob pass from the flank came from more than 30 yards out and only found Lenhart's noggin as center backs Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes left too wide a gap between them to box out the Quakes forward. That sequence followed a Chris Wondolowski shot that hit the woodwork in the preceding moments, and was engulfed by mental lapses that San Jose consistently exploited.
If Mendes and Stephen Keel were accountable for their mixed results in holding up the patchwork backline, Ream now receives his share of the blame for being out of position on Lenhart's goal and for not clearing the ball to kill the persistent San Jose attack. He picked it up shortly thereafter, but the US defender needs to discover his discipline before an error reminds him to do so.
Influential Influenza. An hour before first kick occurred at Stanford Stadium, the Red Bulls announced via Twitter that Thierry Henry would not start against the Quakes due to what the club described as "flu-like symptoms."
With Luke Rodgers still tending to his plantar fasciitis and Dwayne De Rosario now playing for D.C. United, that left Juan Agudelo paired with Mehdi Ballouchy up top to start the match.
Get a Grip. New York bestowed rookie 'keeper Bouna Coundoul with his second-consecutive MLS start after Greg Sutton minded the net for the baby Bulls in Tuesday's US Open Cup win.
Unfortunately, the Sengalese stopper returned the favor with his second soft goal in as many games. Coundoul broke through a penalty area scrum following a corner kick to get his hands on the inbound ball, but failed to maintain possession as Teemu Tainio leaped in his path at the last moment. The ball deflected toward the spot where Khari Stevenson converted it on an open net for the equalizer.
At some point, the Red Bulls will need a goalkeeper that provides more answers that questions in the back. Thanks to yet another Bouna blunder, that point is not now.
Twelve. That's how many matches the Red Bulls have played this season in which they scored first. The Red Bulls now have ten draws.
The Red Bulls now head back to Red Bull Arena to open their season series against Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC on Wednesday. First kick is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.