HARRISON, N.J.-- When things are going your way as a team, the breaks find a way of working out in your favor. And when things are going badly, it becomes tough to stay out of your own way.
The New York Red Bulls pushed their winning streak to four straight matches after posting a 1-0 victory against a struggling FC Dallas on Sunday at Red Bull Arena.
FC Dallas handed the Red Bulls sole possession of first place in the East, and the lead in the MLS Supporters' Shield race, when midfielder Erick inexplicably blasted a Red Bulls cross into his own net from close range in the 77th minute for the only goal of the match.
“I knew there was a goal in this game, at least a goal in this game,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “I was just hoping the odds were in our favor to get it. We were knocking and knocking and knocking and they had two big boys in the center there and we got after them a bit.”
The victory helped the Red Bulls move three points clear of Sporting KC for first place in the East, and a point ahead of the Seattle Sounders for the lead in the race for the MLS Supporters' Shield (though Seattle has two games in hand). The Red Bulls play at Seattle on Sunday.
“We have to figure out a way to go into Seattle next weekend and get a result in front of 60,000 with a team that’s on a phenomenal run right now,” Petke said.
The loss cost FC Dallas a chance to jump to within two points of fifth place in the West, and now Schellas’ Hyndman’s team faces the prospect of having to leapfrog three teams in order to earn a playoff spot.
The Red Bulls created several scoring chances in both halves of the match, but both Thierry Henry and Eric Alexander wasted quality chances before the game-deciding own goal. The vital play came on what started out as a seemingly harmless sequence. Jonny Steele whipped in a hopeful cross to the front of the FC Dallas goal, where no Red Bulls players were located, but Erick raced back to clear the ball and instead blasted into his own net from five yards out.
The Red Bulls nearly made it 2-0 just a minute later, but Raul Fernandez made a crucial save on an Eric Alexander breakaway to keep FC Dallas in the match.
The defeat was a bitter one for an FC Dallas side that lost on an own goal last week as well, when Matt Hedges scored on his own net in a 2-1 loss to Colorado.
“I thought we played extremely well in the beginning of the year and I thought a lot of balls were bouncing the right way for us,” FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman. “In the last two games we’ve been beaten on own goals. In Colorado we’re up 1-0, they score, and then we score on ourselves.
“Today, it was a nothing ball,” Hyndman said, referring to the cross that led to the own goal. “We lost it on the left and I think we had three guys in a straight line, and any of them could have taken it, except for the guy in the middle, and he put it in.”
FC Dallas returns to action on Saturday against the Columbus Crew in a battle of teams chasing playoff spots.