Wednesday, June 6th: 4-0 Win (Lamar Hunt Open Cup, 4th round, RBNY advances)
It was Deja Vu all over again* when the New York Red Bulls hosted New York City FC in the 4th round of the Lamar Hunt Open Cup.
IT’S OUR PARTY: Last year, the New York Red Bulls defeated NYCFC 1-0, with Daniel Royer scoring the only goal in the 67th minute. There were cheers and jeers, the usual banter, and a hilarious halftime takedown of a pitch invader. So when the cup draw was announced, making for the fourth Hudson River Derby of 2018, the reaction was mixed. RBNY did fine in the last meeting, but they were missing key pieces this time around.
WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT: It didn’t take long for the scoring to begin. In just the second minute, midfielder Vincent Bezecourt blasted the ball past backup goalkeeper Brad Stuver. From my vantage point, I could see coach Jesse Marsch tell the bench not to get too excited. A clever combination of moves from Derrick Etienne Jr., Alex Muyl, and Royer (9′) saw nearly a second goal by Danny’s heel flick. But Stuver was able to grab the ball.
Later in the half, a messy and violent advance up the field for RBNY ends with Muyl sending the ball way over the crossbar (28′). The crowd cried out in pain, but Alex was definitely the one feeling it most of all.
OK, people will be annoyed at Muyl’s inability to make the most out of the chances he was given last night, but if you rewatch the first half closely, you’ll see that he murdered City in the press. They couldn’t deal with how dogged he was.
That second goal had to wait until the 2nd half. A corner kick from Marc Rzatkowski found Aaron Long‘s head, and then the back of the net (52′). While a 2-0 lead was plenty good for RBNY to advance, Royer was able to really finish off the game with not one but TWO goals at the end of the second half (84′ & 89’).
FASTEST BRACE YOU'LL EVER SEE…TWO IN TWO MINUTES!!!!
WE RUN THINGS: For as much as I talk soccer, I’m still kind of new at the lingo… a lot has changed since I was playing. But I have learned about assessing a player’s workrate. It’s kind of an intangible– not like passing accuracy or shots on frame. It’s something you feel as you watch them play.
Not having watched Red Bulls II (I know, shame on me), I was previously unaware of Hassan Ndam‘s or Ethan Kutler‘s workrate. But they are thoroughly impressive. It’s the best testament to the Red Bulls system: slot in any piece and the team is still a cohesive unit. Not bad for their first time out with the first team.
WE CAME TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN NOW: Even Marc Rzatkowski, coming halfway around the world from Red Bull Salzburg, plays as if he grew up across the street from Tyler Adams. Both on and off the field, his ease with his teammates makes for a positive experience. When asked about his effect on the team, Royer said, “You can see he’s a great soccer player. Without the ball, he’s so aggressive he can win a lot of balls…and then with the ball he’s so smooth and creative.”
RBNY travels to Columbus for league play against (Save) the Crew this Saturday, and then to Chester, PA for the next Open Cup round against the Philadelphia Union. Don’t stop now, you boys in Red.
*That’s a Yogi Berra saying. He played for the Yankees. What– you thought the South Ward singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 70th minute is the only baseball dig we can come up with?
The New York Red Bulls, smarting from their home loss, traveled to sunny California to face a team (LA Galaxy) that is growing desperate for a win, especially one at home.
So: was I going to see a classic Hollywood fairytale ending? Or a gritty and harsh plot resolution?
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The big news this week was the re-signings of Homegrown player Sean Davis and Austrian International Daniel Royer to new MLS contracts. Both players have proven themselves integral to the team’s style of play, and fans are pleased with the move. Not that it was weighing on their minds, but it must be nice to know that at least your near future is secure.
Davis executes many of Captain Luis Robles‘s directives, the main reason people have issues with goalkeepers having the armband. And although Royer was yet to score this season, it was definitely not for lack of trying.
YER A WIZARD
From a logical standpoint, it wasn’t a very big deal. There are a lot of players who haven’t scored a goal this season. But Danny Royer is a certified goalscorer, only hampered by injury last season. In league play, Royer had been thwarted time and again. Until now: all the frustration has finally yielded a goal for Royer (7’). (Same expletives came out of his mouth, but at least they were celebratory this time.)
And let’s not ignore that Bradley Wright-Phillips was credited with not one but two assists. For someone who is usually getting the pass, he’s giving pretty good as well.
VAR AND AWAY
Romain Alessandrini thought he had leveled the game in the 9th minute, but goals are automatically reviewed by the Video Assistant Referee. It was VAR that ruled Ola Kamara offside on the pass that became the assist.
I’ve never really given my opinion on VAR… because I don’t really have one. It’s too easy to hate it when it goes against your team and like it when it helps your team. So basically it’s a wash. RBNY coach Jesse Marsch was cautiously pleased with VAR as well:
I am used to not getting VAR so it was nice to get it. I don’t know enough about what happened so it is hard to make any comments on it.
It was all going according to plan. The second half saw midfielder Florian Valot double the Red Bulls’ lead (49′). And then the old curse of “the most dangerous lead in soccer” reared its ugly head. Back to back Galaxy goals (Ola Kamara 59′ and Giovani Dos Santos 66′) brought the game level.
But it was a handball called in the box that provided the Red Bulls with the opportunity to seal the deal. The job fell to Kaku, who nailed it right where Galaxy GK David Bingham was diving to get the third goal and bring home three points.
THE LAST ACTION HERO
What? Did you think I was going to ignore Zlatan Ibrahimovic altogether? That might result in a yellow card for me! Embed from Getty Images
Of course, he was awesome and intimidating. He had words with defenders Kemar Lawrence and Aurelien Collin, not to mention the assistant referee. He played the full 90 and was present throughout the game, credited with the assists for both Galaxy goals.
In fact, I give him a lot of credit for being caught offside 4 times– that’s a man who is going after the game. I expect no less from Zlatan. His impact in MLS will only grow, and all of MLS will benefit from it.
The New York Red Bulls travel home to prepare for the latest installment of the Hudson River Derby.
CONCACAF Champions League, Round of 16
Leg 1: 1-1 Draw
Leg 2: 2-0 Win (3-1 agg.)
Before MLS kicked off for the 2018 season, the New York Red Bulls began their campaign in the CONCACAF Champions League with a trip to Costa Rica to face the Honduran club Olimpia in the first leg of the Round of 16.
That 1st leg, played in an empty stadium at a neutral location, was not particularly a stand-out match. Forward Daniel Royer scored in the 31st minute, only to have the score equalized by Brayan Moya in the 79th minute with a penalty kick following a hard tackle by defender Aurelien Collin. While the Away Goal Rule was in place, which weighted RBNY’s goal a little more, going into the 2nd leg with a draw allowed for the drama to play out at Red Bull Arena.
And play out it did.
Adeus meu amigo: While rumors had swirled in recent weeks, it was only when the gameday roster of 18 was announced that it became clear Brazilian midfielder Felipe Martins was no longer part of the team. It was not until 2 days later that the trade was made official, sending Felipe to the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for defender Tim Parker (and a bunch of GAM TAM THANK YOU MA’AM that I’m not going to bother to explain). Like the other recent departures from RBNY, there’s sadness among fans, but the general consensus is that it was time to move on and we wish him well… until he comes back to face the Red Bulls.
Visa- not quite everywhere you want to be: Moya, as well as 2 other players for CD Olimpia, were prevented from traveling to Harrison for the 2nd leg due to issues with their visas. I don’t know who should have taken steps to ensure that all players would be able to travel, but it should have been handled.
Willkommen: Marc Rzatkowski (shh-KOFF-skee), on loan from Red Bull Salzburg, made the starting XI in the midfield. And he shined. I loved every second he was on the ball. Unlike other players who have joined the squad in recent seasons, Rzatkowski’s integration was seamless and immediate.
“He was fantastic, I mean his work ethic, the thing that you’ll see with him, the best of any player I’ve ever seen is with the ball and any movement within the game he comes back and thinks about closing down space and second balls, he’s incredible.”
–Coach Jesse Marsch
Dos a Cero: Following a well-moving but scoreless first half, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips opened his account for 2018 competition with a laser shot in the 54th minute that the Olimpia goalkeeper was sure was going to go wide. The pace was markedly faster after the goal from both sides.
Midfielder and RBNY Academy product Sean Davis doubled the lead with a goal in the 64th minute.
If anyone was worried about what was going to happen to the Red Bulls midfield following the exit of the likes of Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and now Felipe… it seems the kids are alright (Davis, RZA, and Tyler Adams).
#HolaKaku: Alejandro Romero Gamarra, who couldn’t travel to Costa Rica and instead played with Red Bulls II in the final match of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup, made his RBA debut in the 64th minute. He replaced Alex Muyl, who deserved the rest following 4 total shots at ridiculous angles.
Kaku was credited with 2 shots and a respectable 81.3% passing accuracy. His slightly off-frame shot in the 84th minute was inches away from instant legendary status. It will have to wait for another day.
The Red Bulls face Club Tijuana in the quarterfinals and will be back at Red Bull Arena on the 13th, but will also open their MLS season against the Portland Timbers this weekend.
Have I ever mentioned that I love Canada? It’s kind of random on my part… I have no affiliation with the country as far as my heritage is concerned. But I just latched on to Canadian stuff when I was younger and it has stuck with me ever since. Barenaked Ladies… Kids in the Hall… Quebec City… Poutine…
So you should know that when the New York Red Bulls (11-8-2, 35 pts) faced the Montreal Impact (6-8-6, 24 pts), I sang along to both national anthems. The Impact’s “home and native land” is pretty cool. And former RBNY defender Chris Duvall was in their starting XI, and he is no “Metro Reject”.
THE SAME… BUT DIFFERENT: RBNY has been enjoying quite the run these days. They won every game they played this month, between League and Open Cup play, scoring 16 goals and keeping 3 clean sheets. I went back and read my last article about Montreal and RBNY… it wasn’t very optimistic.
15 points later, I wish I knew what finally ‘clicked’ for the team… There were very few changes to the lineup: only 3 players from the defeat on June 3rd were not part of this win (Kemar Lawrence– suspension; Frederik Gulbrandsen– returned to RB Salzburg; and Mike Grella– season-ending injury). Defender Aurelien Collin is still out with injury.
Although the team had been doing well while Michael Amir Murillo was away for the Gold Cup, he just fit back in upon his return, which is fantastic to watch. His mental presence to poke the ball in from Daniel Royer‘s cross in the 58th minute and open his MLS scoring account was ridiculously satisfying to watch.
ROYER ROLLING (AND FLIPPING): Speaking of fantastic to watch, Austrian attacker Daniel Royer has really grown into his role as fellow striker with Bradley Wright-Phillips. With 2 braces in the last 3 games, he’s just getting hotter for the team.
He started off the scoring for RBNY with a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, having been clipped by Impact GK Maxime Crepeau trying to make a save. Then his second goal, slotted between Crepeau and the near post in the 90th minute, looked a lot like his second goal against San Jose Earthquakes. Quite the signature goal, as well as the signature celebration.
Of course, it must also be noted that BWP netted his 80th goal in his RBNY career (85′), taking only 128 games to reach that number. This puts him at #16 of all-time MLS scorers.
CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: The summer transfer window for the Red Bulls, like the season itself, had a bit of a slow start. But the game began with a new player in the red training top: Panamanian defender Fidel Escobar was on the bench for the team, although he did not make his debut.
Forward Muhamed Keita is not yet available. And head coach Jesse Marsch has said there could be more moves coming before the window closes. Will he nab a trade from another MLS team? Will any members of NYRBII get a nod? And what will these moves mean for the current members? Change can be scary, but necessary.
The 2nd (or 3rd, if you include the Open Cup) Hudson River Derby of the season is coming up after the MLS All-Star Game. Best wishes to Tyler Adams, Derrick Etienne Jr, and Evan Louro, participating in the Homegrown All-Star Match. The rest of the guys seem to be enjoying a little time off:
Aloha! I’m Kerissa and I’ll be your New York Red Bulls Key Contributor for the San Jose Earthquakes match. It’s like I’m a super-sub with no athletic ability whatsoever. Thankfully, you don’t need athletic ability to enjoy sports, so let’s have a good time talking about the match!
I want to start by telling you something I figured out Wednesday night. If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anybody else? Great!
Here’s what I figured out: this season’s team motto is “Just Keep Swimming”.
No, really it is! Go back. Watch this season’s matches. You’ll see it. You’ll see high possession, higher rates of shots taken, and missed crosses for days. It’s a relentless barrage running and kicking until something works. The Red Bulls keep “swimming” until they score.
Now, perhaps this is the motto for every gegenpressing team. When you’re moving fast, crosses are going to be missed; play is going to look a little sloppy. I’ve seen the Red Bulls pull off a precision high press, though, so it’s hard for me to believe this goes with the territory. The rigor of play was nearly as low as it’s been at other times this season. Yes, they won (and, at 5-1, boy, did they ever), but it just seemed like a lot of swimming.
Now, maybe I’m being a little too hard on the team. The Metro area did have a high temperature in the 90s on Wednesday, while the game temperature hovered in the 80s.
They didn’t even get a water break. Everyone in the arena was sluggish!
So, considering this, the match stats are impressive. RBNY definitely performed well against San Jose. They had an average possession of 57% against the Quakes’ 43%, they took more shots (19 v 12), and had more on target (11 v 3). Plus, despite my concern about missed crosses, RBNY had an 84% passing accuracy.
The match even became a redemption moment for a few players. Alex Muyl came on in the 44th minute as a substitute for Connor Lade, who went out with a potential re-injury to his left knee. And Muyl did okay. He matched Lade in touches, while having a better passing accuracy. I wouldn’t recommend he stay in a place that was essentially the back line, but his time there should be helpful for challenges during the rest of the season.
Sean Davis is the next player on the list who had a darn good performance. Every time he touched the ball, San Jose’s midfield would surround him like pigeons in the park looking for birdseed. It was an obvious attempt to suppress a player who’s been getting stronger. If only it had worked. Davis was unmarked in the box when Lade and Sacha Kljestan passed him the ball for a sneaky goal.
It was Kljestan, though, who the crowd embraced as a conquering hero. And, truly, it was a flashback to the number 10 of 2016. He had a whopping 92 touches, created five chances, assisted on two goals, and scored a goal himself. He was a walking fire emoji.
The hardest player to miss, however, was Daniel Royer. How can I describe his style of play? It felt like he was trying to impress someone. It reminded me of watching kids playing junior basketball and hogging the ball because they wanted to impress a family member in the stands. And bless Royer’s heart, he put 110% into the whole match. He was second behind Kljestan for touches and took the most shots. His tenacity paid off, too; he scored the final two goals.
Royer is your foreign exhange friend who dabs way too much but you don't have the heart to tell him
Now comes the hard part because, faithful reader, I have something shameful to admit. All I ask is that you let me keep the sack dress on during my walk of atonement. You see, I was not at the match as a fan, I was there as a professional; and professionals don’t cheer. But, faithful reader, when that Felipe goal went into the net, I may have pumped my arm a little bit.
Could you blame me? It was an important night for Davis, Kljestan, and Felipe. They each scored their first goals of the seasons. Plus —PLUS! — Kljestan assisted with the Davis/Felipe goals, while needing no assist for his. And there was something about that Kljestan goal that opened a flood gate because Felipe made his two minutes after him with Royer’s coming in the 90th and 91st minutes.
In a twenty-minute span the Red Bulls narrowed their goal differential to –1 and doubled San Jose’s to –8. It was like me being in the press box was some sort of good luck charm [wink, wink].
Maybe — probably — you’re wondering why, if the stats are good and a bunch of goals were scored, I’m still not convinced the team is turning things around. Here’s why: because “just keep swimming” is a term coined by an optimistic fish to help a pessimistic fish; it’s not a long-term plan.
Let’s start with this season’s poorly-timed crosses. Despite the high passing accuracy, the team’s ability to connect in the box is still inconsistent. In a majority of the matches this season, crosses are lobbed without looking as their targets are struggling to get into position. A fast rate of play will bring misses, but when this happens RBNY falls into the same counter-press trap they’ve always been weak against. All San Jose had to do was delay Bradley Wright-Phillips and – badda-boom – they have a goal kick to their attacking half and get into a dangerous position.
And let’s not forget the backline. In the post-match presser, Jesse Marsch said there was always a three-man backline, but no one would blame you for thinking differently. At times, they looked like a five-man defense with Connor Lade and homegrown promised child Tyler Adams as wide wing backs. Aaron Long, Damien Perrinelle, and Sal Zizzo, as center backs, were a mixed bag. Zizzo did the incredible by having the most touches of the three, the best passing accuracy, and not conceding any fouls. Whereas Perrinelle, the weakest of the three, had trouble marking players and received a lot of Luis Robles‘ angry shouts.
As luck would have it, Panama was defeated by Costa Rica the same night. Cross your fingers Michael Murillo will be up for playing on Saturday in Minnesota. He’ll get a start and RBNY will have a stronger back four. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait a little bit longer for Kemar Lawrence, who’ll be playing Mexico on Sunday in the semi-finals of the Gold Cup.
There are some who are starting to get on the hunky-dory bandwagon. I’m not ready to ride that, yet. RBNY just hasn’t been consistent for enough time. When I watch RBNY play something seems off. It may be morale, in which case a game like the one against San Jose is a lift. We’ll just have to keep watching to see if they can bring more consistence to their persistence.
The New York Red Bulls (10-8-2, 32 points) had a second outing this week, just days after a stunning 5-1 win at home against the San Jose Earthquakes. They faced expansion team Minnesota United (5-12-4, 19 points) for the first time ever. When I first saw the MNUFC crest, with its silhouette of a loon with a red eye, I latched on to the nickname DETHLOON. I love calling them that, and I want them to be just as badass as that nickname. They’ve had a rough go of things, but they’ve started to right the ship… kinda. Injuries and international duty kneecapped the Loons.
HOT IN HERRRE: MNUFC is playing home games at the University of Minnesota. Because it’s totally acceptable for college gridiron football, the field is artificial turf. Turf doesn’t absorb heat– it bounces the heat right back into the air just above the ground. If you’ve never felt it, let me be the one to tell you: it’s awful.
A camera at field level showed the heat rippling up from the ground. Alex Muyl was seen hosing down his cleats early on. Defender Aurelien Collin, listed as questionable prior to the game, was not in the 18 at all, presumably to protect his still-healing hamstring injury. Head referee Hilario Grajeda called for hydration breaks during both halves. Sideline showers, FTW.
THREE STRIKES, THREE POINTS: Attacking midfielder Daniel Royer scored a beautiful goal from outside the box early on (16′). He’s been on fire of late, this being his 8th goal of the season. And he went unmarked, so why not go for it? The second goal, courtesy of striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, had to wait until the 67th minute. But the capper from Alex Muyl in the 90th was a pleasant surprise. In my previous article, I had voiced a touch of displeasure at how Muyl scrambled and seemed inefficient. I’m not saying the team is reading and taking my advice, but…
PLAY UGLY: YOU try to run a solid 90 minutes in heat and humidity and make some pretty soccer!
(MNUFC on left, RBNY on right.)
RBNY’s signature High Press was in full effect. There could have been many more goals on the day.
MNUFC GK Bobby Shuttleworth apparently was able to create a forcefield around the goal during portions of the match. Impressive.
There was also a total of 28 fouls and 3 yellow cards between the two sides, and those were just the offenses that were called! Imagine when Video Assisted Refereeing arrives in a couple of weeks! Yaaaaaay…
CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER: Welcome back to Panamanian international Michael Amir Murillo following an entertaining run in the Gold Cup. Also a warm welcome to Hassan Ndam on his MLS debut, coming in for defender Sal Zizzo. Captain Sacha Kljestan now has the club record for assists, surpassing legend Thierry Henry. And super sub Gonzalo Verón got some quality minutes for the 2nd game in a row.
Home again, home again: this time against former teammate Chris Duvall and the Montreal Impact. Keep the momentum going, guys!
Featured image courtesy: Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports
I live by the notion that it costs me nothing to be nice, and indeed it makes my life infinitely better. Thanks to a particularly generous season ticket holder, I was able to take my 9-year-old son to the New York Red Bulls (4-3-1, 13 points) game against the Columbus Crew (4-3-1, 13 points) and sit in a none-too-shabby location (lower level, above the corner flag to the right of the goal). I’ve been to Red Bull Arena a few times before, enough that I didn’t need my GPS to get there or to find the arena from my rather distant parking spot.
With the increasing popularity of soccer broadcasting, it’s easy to watch a game at home or in a bar. But nothing beats being in Red Bull Arena. We sat near the Supporter’s Section, full of shirtless screamers and flags and smoke. We yelled out “RED!” during the bridge of the National Anthem, the only color mentioned in the song. We sat with our fuzzy throw blankets and cheered the team on. And my son looked at that field and said, “Someday, I’ll play out there.”
Unfortunately, there was a false start of sorts when midfielder Artur went down in the first minute. (It was later confirmed that he suffered a broken wrist.) But the Red Bulls were riding the wave that comes with a very comfortable 18-game undefeated streak at home.
In fact, it only took 11 minutes for Alex Muyl (pronounced “M-wheel” — reporters and analysts are pronouncing his name incorrectly; that should be changing very soon) to find the back of the net following a cross by Kemar Lawrence. This was Muyl’s 2nd goal in as many games.Goalkeeper Luis Robles was able to keep a clean sheet once again, most notably against Crew striker Justin Meram—any Red Bulls fan can tell you it’s not fun to see that Audi Player Index commercial where Meram gets past Robles, no matter how long ago it was.
Then in the 38th minute, RBNY striker Bradley Wright-Phillips was brought down in the box by Crew defender Alex Crognale, who was injured in the incident. Another Crew injury, another forced substitution. Austrian winger Daniel Royer converted the Penalty Kick and doubled the lead. Both teams were held scoreless in the second half, even though some great chances came to subs Frederik Gulbrandsen and Derrick Etienne Jr.
Gulbrandsen, on loan from Red Bull Salzburg, actually did find the back of the net but was ruled offside. When the final whistle blew, the home team was victorious and the sizeable crowd made their way back to their cars or the train station. My son promptly fell asleep in the backseat on the ride home, happy to have been in the arena for another Red Bulls win.
Same time next week, guys? I’ll be sure to let you know.