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Author: Iain Macintosh

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“It’s shameful for me,” said New York Red Bulls’ coach Jesse Marsch afterwards. “The game is supposed to have honour.”

It’s a nice thought and in an ideal world, we would all conduct ourselves with grace and nobility. But as Bill Shankly once said, “If you don’t know what to do with the ball, put it in the net and we’ll discuss the options later.” And that’s exactly how New England Revolution won their first game of the season.

It was the 55th minute when Red Bulls Kamar Lawrence, shifted to centre-back because of the absence of first choices Ronald Zubar and Gideon Baah, crumpled to the floor. But New England’s Scott Caldwell clearly hadn’t seen it. He was in the other half and like a flaxen-haired Xabi Alonso, he lifted the ball 40 yards onto the right flank, ahead of the accelerating Juan Agueldo. Now, Agueldo almost certainly *had* seen the stricken Lawrence because if he hadn’t, then what was he doing ten yards ahead of all the other defenders?
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“I’ll be honest with you,” said New England coach Jay Heaps afterwards. “I try to tell the guys to play it to the whistle…I’d expect them to go to goal.”
And go to goal he did, clattering away and then cutting the ball back for Diego Fagundez to finish. New York, understandably, were not amused. It has not been an encouraging start to the season for either team. The Red Bulls only won their first game a fortnight ago, overcoming Owen Coyle’s Houston Dynamo and while they made chances here, they couldn’t convert anything. And six minutes after Fagundez’s goal, they were down to 10 men.

Again, they were unlucky. Felipe, their 25 year old midfielder, overstretched while chasing a loose ball and caught Kelyn Rowe on the shin. It looked painful, it was probably worth a booking. A red card only heightened the sense that the Red Bulls were having a very bad day at the office.

New England could have opened the scoring as early as the third minute when Agueldo tried a different cheeky manoeuvre and nearly lobbed Luis Robles from 40 yards. But it was New York who had more of the chances. Perhaps their day would have ended better if Bradley Wright-Phillips had brought his shooting boots.

Now 31, the former Manchester City starlet has been a revelation in the US, scoring 44 league goals in his last two seasons. But he couldn’t score here. Flanked by Mike Grella and former Leeds United winger Lloyd Sam, he certainly had the opportunities. A coruscating from Sal Zizzo in the 13th minute gave him the chance to turn on the ball in the box, but the shot was blocked. he had another shot blocked on 20 minutes, a disappointing conclusion to a fine Grella run. On the hour, Wright-Phillips runs onto a long ball that finally releases him behind the New England defenders, but he never quite brings the ball under control and Bobby Shuttleworth is out to shut him down. Shuttleworth saves the day again on 80 minutes, denying Wright-Phillips from three yards out. But the final chance is spurned by Dax McCarty, a fine diving header cleared off the line by Daigo Kobayashi.

Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s not your day. The debate over Agueldo’s decision to play on will continue, and you suspect that the New York fans are unlikely to forget this game easily. But with better finishing, they would have been able to respond in the best possible way.
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Iain Macintosh
Is a football writer for ESPNFC and the editor of  The Set Pieces

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