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May 20, 2010
Red Bulls play arguably best game of season, but fall to Columbus, 3-1

Tim Ream: "To be honest with you, we got lucky the first couple of games, breaks going our way, getting PK calls. this is the soccer gods way of getting back at us."
Tim Ream: "To be honest with you, we got lucky the first couple of games, breaks going our way, getting PK calls. this is the soccer gods way of getting back at us."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

HARRISON, N.J. -- The Red Bulls walked out of Red Bull Arena Thursday night, trying to explain a confounding 3-1 loss to to the Columbus Crew to themselves and anybody who would listen.

It wasn't that they played poorly. They actually outplayed the Crew for a good portion of the nationally televised MLS match and had more scoring chances. Heck, they hit the woodwork three times, but settled for a two-goal loss in front of 11,940, the smallest regular-season crowd at the new Red Bull Arena.

Compounding the host team's frustration, the Crew (5-0-2, 17 points) vaulted past the reeling Red Bulls (5-4, 15) and into first place in the Eastern Conference lead, with two games in hand.

"It's a difficult defeat, that's for sure," coach Hans Backe said. "Probably our best performance so far in the league, if you look at possession, looking at creating chances, putting a team like Columbus under pressure.

"I feel sorry for the players. They deserved better."

The Red Bulls outshot the Crew, 19-10, hitting the woodwork three times, and forcing goalkeeper Will Hesmer to make five saves. They also enjoyed an 11-4 corner-kick advantage.

But as they say, statistics are for losers.

"Compared to last year, I don't think we ever sat back and said we played our best game and lost," central defender Mike Petke said. "I'm looking for the positives.

"It's a cruel game sometimes."

Indeed it can be.

Asked how they could snap out of their three-game funk, Petke, who became the 12th player in MLS history to play in 300 games, just shook his head.

"Slay a chicken. Sacrifice it," he said. "A couple of beers. I don't know."

After seeing getting all of the breaks early on this season, now it seems everything is going against the Red Bulls.

"To be honest with you, we got lucky the first couple of games, breaks going our way, getting PK calls," rookie central defender Tim Ream said. "This is the soccer gods way of getting back at us. But as the same time, you create your own luck. We just need to create our own luck."

The next time will be Sunday against Juventus in an international friendly.

Both teams were undermanned and unlucky entering the match.

The Bulls were without three starters -- midfielders Carl Robinson (knee swelling) and Joel Lindpere (groin strain) and forward Salou Ibrahim Hamstring strain). They also were without a fourth player slated to be a regular -- left midfielder Brian Nielsen (right knee pain).

Backe juggled his lineup, starting defenders Jeremy Hall and Roy Miller in the midfield, and Dane Richards, usually a midfielder, alongside Juan Pablo Angel up front.

Crew all-star midfielder-forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto was serving a one-game suspension and defender Chad Marshall and midfielder Robbie Rogers were in Princeton, N.J. with the U.S. National Team at World Cup training camp.

Former MetroStars midfielder Eddie Gaven led Columbus, scoring the first goal, an eight-yard header in the 36th minute and setting up Andy Iro's header off a his corner kick four minutes later. Rookie Tony Tchani countered with his first MLS goal, an eight-header in the 81st minute, but Emilio Renteria restored the Crew's two-goal lead off a counterattack two minutes later.

"Two and a half individual mistakes killed the game for us," Backe said.

On the third goal, Ream said it was overcommunication between him and Petke.

“I was calling for it to be my ball to head it back to Bouna, and [Mike Petke] was calling it for him to clear it out. I think we were in good positions to do both of those things. We both hesitated thinking the other guy was going to go. There, one guy just has to take charge, doesn’t matter who it is, it has to happen. And it cost us.”

Petke? He would not have none of that. He took the blame.

"I'm going to hold my hand up on that one, OK?" he said. "No matter what was said, no matter who called what, I should be running through everybody on that play. So it doesn't matter who called what. I'll hold my hand up on that one, not Tim."

Compared to Saturday's dreadful effort -- a 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders FC -- this game was a shining light. The Red Bulls force the issue from the start.

But they could not catch a break hitting the woodwork three times -- Sinisa Ubiparipovic (left post in the 36th minute), Richards (left post in the 50th minute) and Angel's 24-yard free kick (crossbar in the 61st minute).

"Oh my God, we were so unlucky today," Richards said.

And the Crew was good and perhaps a bit lucky as well.

"They showed they way they're a championship team every year," Petke said. "Even though they don't deserve a win, they find a way. That's what championship teams do."
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