Tag Archives: Sacha Kljestan

Keeping an Open [Cup] Mind

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Wednesday, June 28

Open Cup Round of 16: 0-0 draw; 5-3 win in PK shootout

Having been eliminated from the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup competition the past two years—both times by the Philadelphia Union—the New York Red Bulls were looking for vindication. Their form slumping of late, still smarting from the loss against NYCFC, it was up to the boys in red and white to make the third time the charm.

OH BEHAVE

Last year, when Philly was in the process of knocking the Red Bulls out of the Open Cup, Jesse Marsch… didn’t take it well.

As a result, he was suspended for the first game of this year’s competition (a 1-0 victory over NYCFC). This time around, Marsch was more even keeled during the match. However, his patience was wearing thin by Extra Time (well… wasn’t everyone’s?).

STILL NOT A RIVALRY

I said this in my last article about the Union. I don’t care if Philly fans want a rivalry. I don’t care if New York vs Philly is a thing in gridiron football. And baseball. And hockey. The Union is just an opponent that the fans enjoy seeing the boys defeat. That doesn’t make it a rivalry. Don’t ask me again.

SIX AT THE BACK?

You know how they say the best defense is a good offense? Well, Marsch decided to reverse that one. I’m going to bust out terms that I haven’t used for a long time: RBNY played 3 fullbacks and 3 halfbacks. Kemar Lawrence played in front of Damien Perrinelle, doing the kind of work up the channel that Michael Amir Murillo has been doing more recently. When pressed to describe the formation at the press conference following the match, Marsch laughed and replied, “We don’t need to call it anything.” Despite losing central defender Aurelien Collin to an apparent hamstring injury, the substitution of Connor Lade (23’) helped to bolster both the defense and the attack. As Marsch said, “It gets the best out of a lot of different guys.”

NOT GIVING UP MY SHOT

RBNY still have their work cut out for them on the attack. Bradley Wright Phillips was outpaced multiple times while trying to make a run to goal, and nearly every corner captain Sacha Kljestan made went to the head of a Union player instead of a Red Bull. The only saving grace is that the same was true on the other side of the field. Lawrence took advantage of his higher position to try a couple of shots, including a diving header that was an inch too short (26’). RBNY went for a total of 17 shots, the kind of attack that is encouraging going forward.

Let me take a moment to say: I have heard the lamentations of many a fan telling Kljestan to Shoot. The. Dang. Ball. He must’ve done this all season to lull the opposition into a false sense of security, because he was completely unmarked and was able to poke the ball right past McCarthy (42’), his first goal this season. While RBNY was unable to hold the lead (Roland Alberg, 86’), they at least held on through Extra Time to force a penalty shootout.

COOL UNDER PRESSURE

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara was primed to be the lead GK when Luis Robles took the position. He has since made appearances with RBNYII, part of the squad that won the USL trophy in 2016. One might think he would have a wandering eye to other clubs, but his value is clear in RBNY. He made a whopping 7 saves, and managed the hefty defensive line like a starting GK. When it came to the shootout, Marsch assured the team that Meara could handle the pressure: “We knew we had a good goalkeeper.” The cheers when all 5 RBNY penalty shots went in were nothing compared to the eruption of the crowd when Meara saved the shot from Picault.

Sylvana Budesheim - New York Red Bulls/mlsfemale

Now it’s a well-deserved weekend off before heading to Jordan Field at Harvard University to face the New England Revolution in the Open Cup Quarterfinals, but not before a return to MLS play… against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Slumping into the Break

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, June 3rd: 1-0 Loss

MLS. It’s not the league of the road warrior. It’s ridiculously difficult to go into an opponent’s stadium and do well. Going into Stade Saputo, the New York Red Bulls (6-7-2, 20 points) had not won an away game since Opening Weekend (vs expansion team Atlanta United) and haven’t scored away since April 1st (in a 4-1 loss against Houston Dynamo).

The form that sent them to the playoffs, that won them the Supporter’s Shield twice in 3 years, and that fans saw coming back in their two most recent wins at home, is slipping away again. Facing the Montreal Impact (4-4-4, 16 points) didn’t make matters easier. This was the team that ousted RBNY from the playoffs last year, Red Bulls Midfielder Felipe’s former team, and the club that had traded to acquire Chris Duvall from RBNY.

During most of the game, the ball stayed on the right side of the field while the Red Bulls had possession. The problem with that is it kept Kemar Lawrence and Mike Grella out of the mix for most of the match. However, a lot of the responsibility fell to Michael Amir Murillo at RB, and he handled the job well. Considering the perceived instability of the back line, defenders Murillo, Lawrence, Aaron Long, and Damien Perrinelle held up quite well throughout the match. Even when Montreal midfielder Blerim Dzemaili made a goal in the 30th minute, it was not because the back line was sleeping on the throw in. Fortunately, the deflection off Dominic Oduro caused the goal to be called back for an offside play.

Following the match, Captain Sacha Kljestan admitted that the team cannot rely on striker Bradly Wright-Phillips to score all the goals; he and the other attackers have to pull their own weight. He should have pointed that out before the match: Grella attempted some fancy footwork in the 42nd minute, as if he was going to dribble the ball right past Impact GK Evan Bush. Then in the 50th minute, Kljestan himself either whiffed the ball or went for the assist: either way, the ball went wide and was another wasted opportunity. Even Felipe, who drew several fouls and took a few free kicks, couldn’t land the ball in the net.

And then, just what the Red Bulls feared came to fruition: in the 67th minute, the Impact earned a free kick and re-started faster than the Red Bulls thought they would. This allowed Dzemaili to poke the ball straight through to the back of the net. They were caught slow, lost, and behind the run of play.

Coach Jesse Marsch called in the reinforcements (Fred Gulbrandsen in for Sean Davis and Gonzalo Veron for Grella in the 75th minute) and the attack was back on. Had the game been maybe ten minutes longer, RBNY might have had a chance to level it. But then in stoppage time Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier slid off the field and fell into the Montreal bench (they have dugout-style benches very close to the touchline—I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often). While Bernier got up and walked out on his own, the incident killed the run of play and referee Mark Geiger did not add additional time to the three minutes already in place.

The International Break is coming up, and prior USMNT call-ups Luis Robles and Sacha Kljestan are staying home (Murillo has been called for Panama, and Lawrence is expected to be called for Jamaica). This is the time they need to rest and refocus. RBNY is hovering at the red line that dictates who makes the playoffs: while they’ve been there before, it’s not where they belong. They have what it takes to climb the standings. They just need to find it in themselves again.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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No Joy in Harrison

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Sunday, May 14th: 1-3 Loss

So here I am again, having watched the New York Red Bulls (5-6-1, 16 points) lose to a non-conference team that has been suffering this season (LA Galaxy, 3-5-2, 11 points), and feeling the urge to explain what is going wrong for the Red Bulls. But I also insist that the answer is above my pay grade. So I can’t explain. I can only guess.

Watching the team in action, it’s almost as if no one is showing the necessary initiative. Sure, Sacha Kljestan was a natural successor in the role of team captain, and he takes the role seriously enough. The roster is full of players who have been a part of the system for a long time, from veterans Felipe and Bradley Wright-Phillips to Homegrown players Connor Lade and Alex Muyl. But it seems that everyone is more willing to let someone else take the lead in the moment.

The back line, with its near-constant rotation, isn’t taking charge of the space in the defensive third while opponents are on the attack; Bradley Wright-Phillips seems to be aiming for the assist rather than the goal; Sacha Kljestan spends several touches squaring up the ball for someone who just isn’t coming.

When Galaxy DP Roman Alessandrini scored a brace in the first 10 minutes of the game, it’s not because he was waiting for the injured Jermaine Jones to return, or depending on just the right pass from Gyasi Zardes. He just went for it. This evening, I sat closer to the field than I had ever been, and could hear Luis Robles screaming to his teammates to “wake up”. But they never did. There isn’t the explosiveness on the field that made them Supporter Shield winners in the past.

On a more positive note, Mike Grella made his return from injury in the 2nd half. He tried to help turn things around for the team, and the fans were happy to see him back on the pitch. The frustration levels were rising, leading to a penalty in the box in the 78th minute that was converted by Giovani Dos Santos, bringing the Galaxy to a 3-0 lead.

Galaxy defender Bradley Diallo was issued two yellow cards which resulted in a sending off in the 90th minute, and that opened the door for Daniel Royer to make the consolation goal in the 93rd. It was a welcome celebration, but too little too late. As the rain was falling in the waning minutes of the game, disappointed fans began to pour out of Red Bull Arena. Like the sad fans of Mudville, they had no choice but to admit that the mighty Red Bulls had, in their own way, struck out.

The team faces Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC this coming Friday, giving them only a few days to regroup. Who will be the team’s lightning rod? And how soon can they get the team charged up?

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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Red Bulls Get the Job Done Against DC United

Sylvana - NY Red Bulls
Official New York Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim @WhiteZinWench

Saturday, April 15:  2- 0 Win

It’s a holiday weekend.

I have 4 kids, not to mention a family that traditionally goes big for this holiday.
So I couldn’t go to iconic Red Bull Arena for the latest installment of the Atlantic Cup.
And I wasn’t the only one with this problem.

But thanks to the miracle of modern soccer broadcasting, the game was available in the comfort of my (parents’) home.

The New York Red Bulls (3-3-1) began a welcome run of home games with their first meeting against DC United (2-3-1) for this season. RBNY stumbled at the beginning of the season, albeit an improvement from the slow start in 2016, and injuries plague the team (Mike Grella and Gonzalo Veron are still on the Injured list), but they have been determined to turn things around.

And try they did. The Red Bulls dominated the first 45 minutes of play, keeping the ball in the attacking third. They had plenty of set pieces (plays that re-start action, such as corner and free kicks), which have become their signature goal-scoring plays. But they just couldn’t finish. DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid made some great saves during the first half, but RBNY just kept knocking at the door…

It took until the 1st minute of the second half to finally make a breakthrough. Sacha Kljestan, wearing the captain’s armband emblazoned with the logos of the three official supporter’s groups for the club, found the head of Alex Muyl on a corner kick and suddenly it was 1-0 for the home team. The team was able to relax a bit with the lead, and even though it resulted in more time in the defensive end of the field, the confidence was noticeably higher. Then in the 80th minute, thanks to a perfectly-placed pass from Felipe Martins, lead goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips nutmegged Hamid, sending a shot between his legs and doubling the lead. Red Bull GK Luis Robles, known as the Ironman, made some great saves to maintain the clean sheet at home.

A rivalry is always a great place to find even more than the usual physicality on the field, and this match was no exception. The head referee’s book was opened plenty, with a total of 5 yellow cards issued between the two teams. There were plenty of tackles and 1v1 plays, and players could be found on the ground nursing a sore shin or knee following these plays. Unfortunately, DC’s Steve Birnbaum had to be stretchered off the field in stoppage time following a head-to-head clash with RB defender Damien Perrinelle, and hopefully he is well. Also, it was nice to see Lloyd Sam again, who was traded to DC United last season. I always hope he does well… unless he’s playing against the Red Bulls.

This coming weekend is not a holiday weekend.
I hope I can make it to the game.
And I hope plenty of others can make it as well.

Featured image courtesy: @NewYorkRedBulls

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