Red Bulls control second half but can't equalize.
Salt Lake jumped ahead in the fourth minute and never relinquished the lead, though New York had a few great opportunities.
“We didn't get off to a good start, and they capitalized on that scoring the goal,” captain Juan Pablo Angel said. “I think from then on it was a pretty even game from end to end. They had their chances, and we had our chances. At the end, the goalkeepers played a big part in the final result.”
New York's two best opportunities had come on Angel headers.
“I hit both of them pretty much as hard as I could, and the goalkeeper made great saves,” Angel said.
The first came in the 11th minute when Angel headed a Seth Stammler pass at the inside of the near post. Only Nick Rimando's diving save prevented an early equalizer that would have changed the landscape of the match. Instead, New York settled for a corner kick that was cleared.
Angel's other opportunity came in the second half when he headed a 55th minute corner kick straight at Rimando, who blocked it and fell to the ground. Angel followed with a light touch before Jamison Olave could fall on him; however, Javier Morales stopped the shot on the goal line and cleared it cleanly.
Aside from the first Angel header, New York was not able to get anything going in the first half. In a surprising role reversal, the Red Bulls looked like they'd been traveling internationally, while Real Salt Lake appeared to have fresh legs.
“We didn't really show up in the first half... Salt Lake controlled the first [half] and we controlled the second,” New York coach Hans Backe said. “Overall we responded well in the second half because when you're only one down, you are still in the game.”
Fabian Espindola tweaked his hamstring and had to leave the match in the 50th minute. Without his offensive threat, New York capitalized and controlled the second half. Salt Lake's offense sputtered as Javier Morales began missing passes and Robbie Findley squandered a couple golden opportunities.
New York took control but was unable to capitalize, taking only three shots in the second half.
“I think we played way better than them in the second half,” forward Thierry Henry said. “In the first half, we did not turn up so they took advantage of that. It could have been 2-0 at halftime and the game would have been over.”
Both sides were missing key players due to international competition. Real Salt Lake was without forward Alvaro Saborio and midfielder Will Johnson; New York was without four starters.
Henry and Angel said the absence of multiple starters, including Designated Player Rafael Marquez, had an impact on the match.
“[Missing Marquez] is a big factor for us. In the first half, we played long ball, which is not how the game should be played,” Henry said. “Rafa not being here was a bit difficult for us because he comes in the middle and he calms people down.”
Still, no one in the New York locker room was making excuses.
“Salt Lake was a way better team than us today,” Henry said. “They deserve the victory, and they deserve to be champions right now.”
For more inside information on Major League Soccer, follow Tyler G. Page @tpageMLS on Twitter.
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page and join Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page!