|Pearce Celebrates His Equalizer|
Backe didn't make the trip to the Pacific Northwest as he dealt with a "personal matter," leaving Jan Halvor Halvorsen and Mike Petke in charge on the touchline. In a fairly evenly matched first half the better scoring opportunities arguably fell to the home side, with Camilo Sanvezzo in particular spurning several excellent chances to put the Whitecaps ahead. New York's best chance came from an open header by Dax McCarty, which he somehow conspired to put wide of goal.
After the half, the Red Bulls came out much stronger, and dominated proceedings for long stretches, without being able to find a breakthrough. Dane Richards' finishing was found wanting, as he reverted to 2009 form, making a complete hash of a one-on-one with Joe Cannon (here's a hint, Dane - try chipping the keeper). Inevitably, of course, despite finding themselves on the back foot for much of the half, it was Vancouver who took the lead, after a cross into the box was poorly cleared. The Red Bull's defenders failed to step out and challenge Martin Bonjour, who had plenty of time to line up a shot that beat Ryan Meara. It was not looking good for New York at that point, but to the team's credit they kept searching for an equalizer and were rewarded by Pearce's header just ten minutes later. Content to get out of Dodge with a hard-earned point, Halvorsen ran the clock down with some very Backe-like late substitutions.
The Red Bulls have now played their final game of the regular season on the West Coast. From now until the end of the season, the farthest west they will venture is Houston, with a game in Kansas City as well. Moreover, they have just two matches remaining against Western Conference foes, but both of those - against Portland and Seattle - will take place in Harrison. That's not to say that RBNY won't have away games to contend with. In fact, after Sunday's home match against conference-leading DC United, Hans Backe and company go back on the road, to Toronto and New England. By the time they return from that trip, the Red Bulls will have played four more road games than home games, with plenty of home cooking to look forward to as the business end of the regular season approaches.
The RBNY front office has been touting Sunday's game as a sell out (or near sell out), but we've heard that one before. Still, fans are well-advised to get tickets now if they haven't already. With a win, New York can climb back above DC United, with games in hand. Thierry Henry should be back, as should Rafa Marquez and - one would assume - Wilman Conde. Then again, Dwayne DeRosario, who burned his former team when DC visited last season, is on the verge of scoring his 100th MLS goal, a feat that the Red Bulls' front office has - thankfully - declined to celebrate, should it happen this weekend.