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McCarty’s stoppage-time winner leads Red Bulls over RSL in instant classic

Roy Miller, Fabian Espindola, Tim Cahill, Jonny Steele, Thierry Henry

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HARRISON, N.J.– Dax McCarty decided it was his turn to play the hero.

With the New York Red Bulls tied with Real Salt Lake at 3-3 in 90th minute stoppage time, McCarty scored the game-winning goal with a diving header, sending the crowd of 18,604 at Red Bull Arena into ecstasy as the Red Bulls defeated RSL, 4-3, on Saturday night.

It’s the second straight loss for RSL in the dying moments of the match.

“I saw Eric Alexander sitting [back] a little bit, when the ball was getting worked out wide, and I thought I’ll give it a go,” McCarty said following the match. “It was a great ball by Brandon (Barklage), and I figured I’d channel my inner Tim Cahill and luckily you get good contact, close your eyes, and good things happen.”

The Red Bulls immediately went at the makeshift RSL starting lineup that was missing three players due to international duty and one to suspension. After Fabian Espindola drew a foul from 25-yards out, Thierry Henry stepped up with an excellently weighted ball in the 11th minute that found the head of Tim Cahill for the game’s opening goal.

It was Cahill’s sixth goal of the season and his second in three matches, but even more amazingly, it came after he took a studs up tackle to the knee in the fourth minute of the match, gutting through the game despite feeling pain.

“Honestly I don’t even know how I got up (from the tackle). Adrenaline rushes through your body, it’s such a big game, so much importance on it, and it happens,” Cahill said. “You always want to be competing against the best teams, and they are one of the best.”

Twelve minutes later, the home side doubled the lead. Red Bulls defender Brandon Backlage was pulled down inside the box, leading to a penalty kick in the 23rd minute. Espindola stepped up and sent a cheeky chip straight down the middle, fooling RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in the process.

Exuding confidence, the Red Bulls nearly scored a third on two occasions from Henry and Espindola, but a lapse in concentration by defender Markus Holgersson allowed RSL forward Olmes Garcia some space in the box and ended with an RSL penalty kick in the 45th minute. RSL’s Alvaro Saborio, back from international duty in the Gold Cup, scored his fifth goal of the season from the spot to cut the deficit in half.

In the second half, emotions began to boil over due to a number of fouls in quick succession by both sides, taking the rhythm out of the match. Garcia and Steele were both shown yellow cards, with Garcia’s resulting in a big confrontation near midfield that luckily didn’t get out of hand.

“The last thing you want is somebody to get ejected,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said. “I think there was a lot of fouls today. You have to adapt to that type of game, and you have to expect (the referee) is going to start throwing cards out.

“I like a physical game, and it worked in our favor tonight.”

RSL head coach Jason Kreis made two key substitutions that fully impacted the match, bringing on Luis Gil and Joao Plata to try and tie the match. Instead, the duo led to more than just that.

Gil was the catalyst for a goal scored in the 80th minute, weaving his way through the Red Bulls defense before playing a ball towards the middle. The ball took a hard bounce off Holgersson straight to Garcia in the box, who fed Saborio for the game-tying goal.

Three minutes later, Plata stormed down the left wing, finding Saborio in the box who curled in a deft strike with the outside of his boot to give the visitors a shocking lead. Not only did the goal give Saborio his third-ever MLS hat-trick, it also completed RSL’s comeback from the two-goal deficit.

“It’s truly important to get him back and also scoring goals,” Kreis said. “You know he was critical for us and he played a very good match.”

However, the Red Bulls refused to be denied a victory. Espindola earned a second Red Bulls penalty kick in the 88th minute, and one minute later, he scored to tie the match yet again.

With five minutes of extra time and fresh legs on the field in substitutes Peguy Luyindula, Lloyd Sam, and Marius Obekop, the Red Bulls pressed for their winner. On a curled ball from Backlage in 90th minute stoppage time, McCarty sent a diving header goal wards, one that Attinella wasn’t able to stop, setting the crowd alight and giving the Red Bulls the three points on a wild night.

“This result can do a lot for a team, this can define a season,” McCarty said. “With this resilience, this character we have, we know that against the best team in the league we came back from a goal down with seven, eight minutes to play.

“It’s a result that can kind of galvanize you, and it’s a result that can push you forward and make you really realize that we can do special things this year.”

Here are the match highlights:


  1. Wow, I now can see how painful it is to be on the other side of the Espindola flopping. I always hated when he did that at RSL, but when you are on the other side of it, it is so disheartening. The first PK was a complete joke. Yes, the defenders hand was on the guys hip. But there was no pull at all, he had no jersey and the guy just threw himself on the ground while going away from the goal. Those are the kinds of flops that should warrant suspensions as the only intent is to cheat the game and deceive the ref.

    On the Garcia one, he cut in front of the defender expecting contact. However, even as a RBNY fan, you cannot argue that there was not contact. There was absolutely no flop on that one as Garcia was definitely tripped. With that said, he was clearly looking for the contact which is a little bit dishonest.

    The last PK which completely changed the game was by far the worst. Yes Espindola makes a great play to nutmeg the defender. But, then the defender makes a conscious decision to not foul, back off and hope Espindola either misses or messes it up trying to pass. However, instead Espindola slows down trying to create contact and when there is not he just throws himself on the ground. There is no contact until after he falls. Two terrible PK calls against RSL again.

    With that said, there was a lot of great creative play in this game. Henry and Saborio are such great attacking players and fun to watch. While it didn’t go RSL’s way, it was not even close to the robbery of the last couple RSL games. Fun to watch. RSL really needs to get another CB healthy as I cannot imagine them giving up 4 goals with Borchers and Schuler or even Salcedo.

  2. Most of the fouls were deserved. Not shocked by any of the penalty calls. In real time it was tough to see exactly what happened but the RSL defender had his arm around Barkledge, which isn’t a good plan in the box away from the scrum and right in front of the ref. Should have been red card rather than yellow on Cahills whack. Henry not following up his shot and heading first toward the corner flag almost cost us the game.

  3. How can you spend as much time outdoors in the summer as Dax and still be so pale??? Besides the mandatory YC, I would highly recommend he find another celebration rather than remove his shirt. Looks like a really fun game, some weak penalties but spare me the hyperbole.

  4. Agreed on the soft PKs. But, it really was an exciting game. Good back and forth. I think the ref did ok outside of the PKs. Sorry to see RSL drop another one in stoppage time.

  5. Just a comment about officiating. MLS really has only a couple of good refs. I didn’t see this game as I was watching Galaxy vs. Rapids at the same time. There was a call so bad, fortunately not affecting the outcome, that Taylor Twellman said he had never seen anything like it in his life. Even accounting for exaggeration, that’s pretty bad given all the MLS games he has played and seen. Anyway, Juninho faked out a Rapid player and was going around him and was clearly fouled by an outstretched leg that was knee high and Juninho got a yellow card. It really was incredibly bad. MLS really needs to upgrade its officiating crew.

  6. This was an important win. To Neruda’s earlier point, it was a stop and start game–by design. RSL came out of the gate fouling, trying to deny Red Bulls any rhythm. That tactic often works against Red Bulls, and it almost worked again. By midway through the second half Barklage, Steele and Dax in particular, and even Cahill were clearly frustrated and (maybe) a little more interested in payback than in playing. I was really worried that their frustration and thirst for blood would take them out of the game That they were nevertheless able to rally as they did is very exciting and looks great for the run to the end of the season.
    The atmosphere last night was fantastic! At the end of the game, another fan was saying to me that it was the most exciting game he had been to, and I realized I could barely hear him, as if I’d just walked out of a heavy metal concert. Great game!

    • Agreed my friend, the place was nuts and RSL was just clobbering RB. Cahill was lucky he could wallk off the field. That should have been a RED. Soft or not the first PK was just dumb because the ref was 5 feet away from the play after warning RSL for holding. The other PKs were dives. The yellows should have come out earlier and more often. No matter, it was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen. Our Brazilian Galo friends said the same thing and this after they won the Copa Libertadores.

    • The atmosphere at Red Bull Arena is underrated…

      Of course, The constant visual of the Red Bull badging and logo on display due to empty seats leads to this.

      All in all, this is a Northern New Jersey/New York City major sports venue.

      The pure electricity seen at events in other sports shines through here on occasion

      THIS is one of the major reasons that NYCFC and a Cosmos rebirth exists over a other locales.

      The prospect of Yankee stadium-like energy in the MLS inventory

  7. Gil still can’t start for this team even with so many guys out? Wasn’t this supposed to be his year to break out? What’s wrong with him? What’s his deficiency? D? Work rate? Anyone know?

    • Gil plays many games where he is invisible. He doesn’t quite make the impact on the game like you’d hope. He starts most games, but Kreis rotates time in that spot between Velasquez, Stephenson, and Gil. Stephenson has been a big surprise this year which has impacted Gil’s time. Also, Grabavoy is having his best season ever and is a lock to start. Beckerman and Morales will always start. There’s a big log jam of talented midfielders at RSL. Kreis is giving them all chances and just waiting for someone to break out.

  8. The game was stop and go with so many fouls but not the worst refereed game in MLS. There’s been far worse. Espindola does the falling thing he used to always try with RSL to good success for nyrb. Oh well at least Portland and LA lost tonight too.

    Let’s get this gold cup tournament over with already. Let the US hoist the trophy and then get RSL players back to the club fast. I’m talking about flying the boys back home in an an F -22. No too dangerous how about an apache helicopter. Ok a leer jet then.

  9. Have to agree on the weak PK calls. The first two definitely, and I’m pretty sure about the third as well. Nice penalty by Espindola on the second one. The GK guessed right, moved early, and still didn’t get it.

    I was out-of-town tonight visiting family and watching the Union/Caps game on TV. After dinner the MLS app on my Nexus kept going “boing”, following by profanity or laughs.

      • The ref called 46 fouls. It encouraged a game of flopping that was constantly rewarded. Especially with the 3 soft pk’s.

      • Yes, ref was awful from opening whistle when RSL should have been down a man on ridiculous Cahill challenge.

    • I agree Andrew. All three PK’s were horrible. Garcia and Espindola should be disciplined for diving and the other guy just went down way too easy. The Ref was handing out PK’s like they were free throws in Basketball.

      • I disagree that Garcia dived. He went to take a stab at the ball, but Holgerson had got his body back in front of the ball and he ended up kicking Holgerson. It wasn’t a PK, but I don’t think he dove. I think Espy sold the last call, but I don’t agree with any of the PKs. However, we were lucky not to have to play 90 a man down. I am sure Alvarez will be hearing from the committee.

  10. It wasn’t a corner kick that McCarty scored on. Don’t even know what to make of this game right now but glad they got the job done


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