Jairo Arrieta scored once for the Columbus Crew, and, on two separate chances, almost doubled the team’s advantage.
Although the Costa Rican forward converted his first-ever penalty attempt for the Crew in the 39th minute to give Columbus the lead, his two missed chances would prove costly late on.
A 66th minute half-volley from Red Bull forward Bradley Wright-Phillips found its way past Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark, bounced off the far post and into the back of the net, with the game finishing in a 1-1 draw.
“It was a half chance. It was a cheap goal, a deflection and off the post,” Clark said of the goal after the match. “Those happen from time to time, but I thought we defended well enough to get a zero, but we didn’t get it.”
The goal was assisted by midfielder Lloyd Sam, and was the fifth of the season for Wright-Phillips.
“They (the Crew) were disappointed that we didn’t win the game, and I like that,” Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match. “I like the fact that they were disappointed. It shows that we have high expectations for themselves.”
Earlier in the second half Arrieta twice found himself with openings that should have been finished, to put the Crew out of reach. In the 55th minute he found himself with an open shot against the Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles, but his shot cannoned off the near post and harmlessly out of play.
The 64th minute though is the one that will be regretted, as the forward was behind the defense with the ball and just needed to chip the keeper to score, but stumbled over his own feet and couldn’t get the final touch that was needed.
“It was very important for me to play well today,” Arrieta said through a translator following the match. “I was in the starting 11. I wanted to be there. 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 first half the Red Bulls dominated proceedings early, with chances for midfielder Eric Alexander and Wright-Phillips that would have found the back of the net were it not for the heroics of Clark.
“It was our build-up play in the first 15 minutes, we couldn’t get it going and they have a lot of individual quality,” Berhalter said. “If you look at their attacking group, it’s a very, very strong group for this league. As we lost the ball in our half, they took advantage of that and they had good movement off the ball, tried to create some chances and they did.”
After evening the game out for the next half an hour, midfielder Justin Meram was brought down in the box by Red Bull defender Kosuke Kimura to earn the penalty.
Instead of the usual penalty taker, midfielder Federico Higuain, Arrieta stepped up to the spot to try and give the home team the lead. His shot rocketed off the crossbar, but at a low enough angle that the ball bounced down and across the line to give the Crew the advantage.
It was the second goal of the season for Arrieta, and improved the team’s record from the spot to 3-3 on the season.
“It was a great goal,” Arrieta added. “I would also like to thank Pipa (Higuain) for allowing me to take it. He is the reason I took it.”
The 1-1 draw was the third straight for the Crew and the second consecutive at home.
After starting the season off with three straight wins in March, the Crew finished April with one loss and three draws, but still moved into first place in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of four teams.
“We want to just keep developing our play,” Berhalter said. “We want to win the games, of course. We have expectations of ourselves to win the game, but we want to develop our style and keep working on that. We’re going to go on the road and give teams tough games. We’re going to try to control the games and be aggressive, and that’s what we do. We’re going to keep trying.”
Next up the Crew will battle head to Kansas City to take on the defending MLS champions Sporting KC, May 4 at 4 p.m.