By DAN KARELL
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For only the second time this season, the Columbus Crew failed to win after leading at halftime.
Bradley Wright-Phillips’ second-half goal canceled out Jairo Arrieta’s first-half penalty kick as the Crew and New York Red Bulls settled for a 1-1 draw on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium.
“I was pleased with many aspects with the performance tonight,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said following the match. “Obviously after the first seven minutes we could have been up, should have been up 2-0, two breakaways. After that, I just felt that if we kept that pressure up, kept that work rate up, and we were able to find those little pockets to get the ball we were going to be okay.
“We make a mental mistake, give them a penalty kick, and we fought back hard and got the tying goal. It’s a very good point for us.”
A game featuring end-to-end action that was marked by a number of highlight-reel saves faded out late in the match as neither team could find the ultimate breakthrough. The draw was the third straight 1-1 tie for the Crew, while the result extended their three-match unbeaten run.
The Red Bulls could have gone up two- or three-nil in the opening 10 minutes as Eric Alexander, Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry all had chances to score, including an Alexander breakaway in the second minute that forced a great save from Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Henry’s attempt in the opening five minutes tipped off the cross bar and flew out of play, coming so close to scoring for the second straight game.
“Steve’s been fantastic,” Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s been good all year and everything about his distribution, coming up with saves when he needs to. All of that was very good.”
The Crew began to get comfortable and execute their game plan after the opening 20 minutes, creating chances off the feet of Federico Higuain. Higuain had a shot that was palmed away well by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles and another long ball that Robles snagged out of the air.
The home team finally got on the board late in the first half when Kosuke Kimura pulled down Justin Meram in the box, leading to referee Geoff Gamble awarding the Crew a penalty kick. Arrieta stepped up to the spot and scored on a blast off the crossbar to give the Crew a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.
“First of all, I just want to thank God for the goal,” Arrieta said. “It was a great goal. I would also like to thank Pipa (Higuain) for allowing me to take it. He is the reason I took it.
“It was very important for me to play well today. I was in the starting 11. I wanted to be there and I wanted to make chances. The chances I did have were stopped by the goalie, he played great. The chances I had I tried to equalize, and then get the second goal, but I couldn’t because the goalie played great.”
In the second half, both teams traded chances early, first as Henry forced a great save from Clark off a volley in the 50th minute, while Arrieta sent a chance in the box careening off the near post in the 55th minute.
Against the run of play, the Red Bulls tied the score thanks to a moment of brilliance from Wright-Phillips. Lloyd Sam passed to the left side of the box where he found Wright-Phillips with his back to goal. Wright-Phillips took a touch into the air, spun, and fired a strike off the post and in to level the match in the 66th minute.
“When Lloyd’s on the ball he likes to have an end product,” Wright-Phillips said. “I gambled on it really, I don’t know if he mishit it or if it ended up falling to me. I tried to get a good touch on it and get a strike on goal because I think I let two in the first half go away so I just wanted to get a shot on target.”
Both teams faded down the stretch, the Red Bulls especially feeling the heavy legs of playing two games in four days.
Despite the draw, Berhalter didn’t seem too upset at the outcome and believed that it was only a matter of time before the Crew return to winning ways.
“It was a fun game,” Berhalter said. “I think that’s exactly what we want to play and you don’t always get that, but there are times where the movement was great, passing between the lines and air opened up. It was an attractive game. I thought it was pretty good for the spectator.”
Watch highlights of the match below: