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U.S. Open Cup – Red Bulls Fall To Short Handed Union At Home On Penalties

USOC Quarter Final Recap – RBNY v. Philadelphia Union

(HARRISON, NJ) A mid-afternoon game during the week is no ideal circumstance for the Red Bulls, returning to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup for the first time since 2011. Nevertheless, the Red Bulls found themselves in just such a predicament thanks to the scheduling of the International Champions Cup. PSG, the French champions were in town to take on Fiorintina later in the evening, and the Union were unwilling to change the scheduled date. As such, the Red Bulls were forced to play the hand they were dealt and took the field on a hot, humid afternoon to face a Union team that had beaten them on this very field no more than 2 months prior. The loss was the second in what turned into a 4-match losing streak. The chance for revenge was in the air, and the Red Bulls fielded a first choice team (Nearly the same starting XI that had taken on Orlando City the prior weekend) to do the job. While the Union had mostly had a down season, they had done well against “superior” opposition, skinning the Red Bulls, Sounders, and DC in a matter of weeks. Philadelphia also fielded a strong lineup, although there were some notable absences from their lineup, namely DP Fernando Aristeguieta on the bench, and GK Brian Sylvestrie who had done so well to stabilize the back since becoming the defacto starter during the Rais M’bolhi debacle earlier in the season. Sylvestrie’s replacement John McCarthy was the big difference on the day, as he had been in the Union’s previous Open Cup encounters, as the Union went on to win in PKs.

Red Bulls Fall To Short Handed Union At Home On Penalties

The first half stood in stark contrast to what would follow for most of afternoon. Philadelphia was able to attack and probe through the first half hour. The Red Bulls attacked well in that time, as Philly left space behind them for NY to find on the counter. While NY had several good chances, the Union defense deserves a lot of credit for staying compact and limiting open looks on net. What did get through was well saved by McCarthy. The game’s dynamic changed dramatically when the Union went down a man in the 40th minute. Connor Casey’s reckless challenge on Connor Lade saw the big man removed. The challenge itself looked ugly, but it was by no means malicious. Rather it was a sign of a player who is a step slow in the twilight of his career. Philly stopped attacking on anything but the counter, and the game was tipped in the favor, despite of being a man down. The game itself was nearly an identical replay of their game against the Union in May.

“I don’t think it even should have gone to penalties, but at the same time, we were lucky to get the goal at the end to push it to extra time so you could look at it both ways. Certainly I think if we’re sharper on the day, that we put that game away early. Even when it was even up, I thought we had chances.” Said a noticeably frustrated Jesse Marsch after the game. “That’s two games against Philly where you feel like we’re in control for a lot of the game, but we’re just unable to make plays and punish them, and on the other side, they were able to make plays and punish us.” The Red Bulls outshot the Union 11 to 1 in the first half, but they could not put the ball into the net.

The second half saw more of the same from the Red Bulls. A strategy that has continued to vex them is a team that is willing to sit back and counter. The Red Bulls are at both times impatient and too patient. Unwilling to risk a counter, but too calculated and stagnant. Cross after cross was sent into the box to players mostly standing in a line waiting. It is not a new problem for the Red Bulls, but it does stand in contrast of the new look team. When Philly had their chance, they took it. Just shy of the 56th minute, the play started when Brian Carrol sent a pass to Vincent Nogueira who was facing his own goal. Kljestan stepped up to pressure and Nogueira expertly dummied the ball and left Kljestan in his dust. With acres of space in front of him, Nogueira charged forward and showed patience in waiting to pass to Le Toux on the wing until the pressure collapsed on him. Le Toux used the outside of his right boot to play the ball back to Nogueira, who had continued his run into the box. The pass from Le Toux split the defenders leaving Nogueira alone in the box. He squared the ball to Ayuk and the winger tapped the ball into the open goal. If you swap the name Ayuk for the name CJ Sappong, it would have been a mirror image of the second goal in their previous meeting at Red bull Arena.

New York left the best for last in regular time, scoring in the 94th minute of time added on. The ball pinged around the box until Mike Grella got a head on the ball and sent it to Lloyd Sam. Sam received the ball with his back to goal, spun and shot with his left to slot the ball into the net. The sparse attendance erupted with delight with extra time looming. The goal was the last moment of joy for Red Bull fans on the evening as the extra period provided more of the same for both teams. When the final whistle blew and the teams lined up for penalties, the day felt like it might already have been won by the Union. Bradley Wright-Phillips was the first shooter for the Red Bulls, and his miss set up the rest of what was to follow. BWP, made the keeper John McCarthy guess the wrong way, but his shot struck the crossbar. The Union took full advantage and kept the pressure on the Red Bulls, who missed a second when Lloyd Sam’s shot was stopped just before it crossed the line. Aristeguieta finished the Red Bulls off with the winning kick.

For Wright-Phillips, it was his third missed penalty in a row. His confidence did not appear to be shaken by the previous misses, although that may only be on the surface. “I was very confident. My record before this, I had 100%, I was very confident. I thought this would’ve been the penalty to help me get back on track by putting my team 1-0 up, but it wasn’t.” The snake bit striker said after the game. Jesse Marsch echoed that same confidence.

“Bradley stepped up and said ‘I want to take the first one’ so I said ‘great,’ I keep encouraging him to have confidence from the spot, obviously now that’s the third one that doesn’t go in for him, but I don’t want for him to waiver in his confidence. I want him to know how important he is to our team, and the belief we all have in him, so I know he’s hurting bad, but he’ll recover and he’ll be fine.” For the Red Bulls, the loss means there will be no Cup in the short term, but they will get the weekend “off” only participating in the ICC friendly games in the next few days. The time off should serve the team well as they regroup and get ready to head down I-95 to take on this same Union team on August 1st. New York can only hope they use that time to figure out how to break down a bunker team.


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