The New York Red Bulls have been dominant at home in recent years and the club provided their faithful fans with more reasons for optimism with a victory last night over the San Jose Earthquakes to start a 3 match home stand by a 2-0 scoreline at Red Bull Arena. New York wore a special patch on their uniforms to mark Autism Awareness Night with the words "Light It Up Blue" which is the slogan for autism related fundraising efforts, proceeds from all tickets sold last night were donated to three New York metro area autism related charities.
I wrote a separate article on the community service aspect of this match which you can find on this site for further information, but the club seemed to have extra motivation for this match which may have had something to do with the charitable aspects of the night. The opening minutes of the match were pretty sluggish, the Red Bulls would eventually find their traction about thirteen minutes into the first half. San Jose had a very good scoring chance early, in the opening minutes, but with the exception of a couple of breakout plays on counters, the Earthquakes played rather tentatively in this match and never seemed to get into the right pace to find any tempo in this meeting last night.
The Red Bulls used the high press style of play, which has become the hallmark of this edition of the club, to consistently take the action to the Earthquakes as well as dictate the tempo of play in the match. San Jose at points looked almost shell shocked by the way the Red Bulls were able to keep the pressure on them throughout the match. The New York offensive attack forced San Jose to defend their goal from an onslaught of different shots leading to twelve corner kicks.
New York was able to get the ball out wide in this match which was imperative because San Jose is a well disciplined defensive team. The club was able to hold possession and work the ball around the field in order to find the open seams to attack the San Jose goal. The ability to get the ball wide stretched the Earthquakes defensively, and over the course of the match, it tired their players to a point where the Red Bulls were able to create more scoring chance.
Lloyd Sam made a number of key plays in the match, the first one coming at about 13 minutes in when he made a great pass to Dax McCarty who fired it wide of the goal. The Red Bulls followed that scoring chance with another breakout where Bradley Wright-Phillips had the ball in the danger area but instead of taking it in and attacking the goal, he left the ball on a pass for Sacha Kljestan. However Kljestan was not in position to receive the pass and was ruled offside.
The pair of Wright-Phillips and Kljestan would work together at the 29 minute mark, where in a similar situation, Wright-Phillips got the ball in the penalty area off a great pass from Felipe but his shot attempt did not have enough pace, Sacha was there to strike the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 Red Bulls lead. The club, fueled by playing on their home field, never looked back in this match.
Quick Strike Attack
The Red Bulls were so quickly on the ball and into the attacking third of the field, it was like a fast break in a basketball game, they frequently had a number of scoring chances bunched together as well. Following the opening goal, Felipe had a good look at goal but shot it wide just one minute after Kljestan's first goal in what we all hope is a long and successful tenure with the Red Bulls.
Chris Duvall was all over the field for the Red Bulls and showed his speed and athleticism to get the ball transitioned from a defensive position all the way up into the attacking area of the field. The dangers of the high press is that it can leave your own defense exposed, but the Earthquakes were largely unable to mount an offensive attack last night to put any pressure on the New York back line.
In the 35th minute the clincher was netted by the Red Bulls as Lloyd Sam threaded a brilliant pass to the back post area where Mike Grella was positioned unmarked by the Earthquakes. Grella, who notoriously recently scored the 1,000th goal in franchise history, was there to put the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead that New York would not relinquish.
It was ironic that Grella scored that goal because on the prior play he committed a bad turnover which lead to a good quality scoring chance for San Jose with their star midfielder, Innocent, who put a good shot on net which was promptly saved by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
However, Sam was the key player in the second goal scoring play. His pass and his field vision to see Grella was unmarked on the back post was excellent. He continues to be the most important player on the pitch for New York.
The match saw a number of hard tackles and some good physicality. The referee's decisions as to which tackles required the issuing of cautionary yellow cards, and which tackles were not even whistled as fouls remained questionable throughout the evening. A scary moment right before halftime came when San Jose's Fatai Alashe made a hard tackle on Dax McCarty and our captain was slow to get up. The infraction was deemed a yellow card for Alashe so the referee did do his part to try to limit that type of dangerous play from repeating.
Kemar Lawrence was injured earlier in the first half on a weird play where he fell awkwardly but returned to the match and remained in the action for the remainder of the game.
The Red Bulls seemed to take their game to a second level in the second half, they came out of the break looking refreshed, while San Jose still looked like it could not adjust adequately to what New York was doing to them. The club had a good chance right out of the locker room in the second half after a corner kick, McCarty had a good chance on goal.
New York kept the pressure on with Wright-Phillips putting a great shot on goal at the 56th minute to test Earthquakes goalie David Bingham. San Jose made some key substitutions which seemed to give them a spark with Tommy Thompson and Chris Wondolowski entering the match in the second half. The Earthquakes started working the ball up the wings trying to find the gaps in the New York defense to exploit and attack.
This adjustment lead to a few pretty good quality scoring chances for the Earthquakes, including a good chance by Wondolowski at the 71st minute mark which Robles made a great save to keep the shutout intact. Both Wondolowski and Innocent would have scoring chances in the minutes that followed with the latter chance being probably the best opportunity for San Jose all night, but Robles was equal to the task and took them both away.
The match ended with two scoring chances for Wright-Phillips in the last few minutes of the match in succession. The Red Bulls dominated the action and tempo of the match peppering the Earthquakes with 21 shots including 8 of them on goal. Conversely, the Earthquakes had 10 shots and just four of them on goal. New York is off to a 3-0-2 start which is their best record after five matches since 2007.
The Red Bulls return to action on Sunday, April 26th with a match at Red Bull Arena against the LA Galaxy at 5 PM on ESPN 2. The club announced a special ceremony that day for former Red Bulls star Juan Pablo Angel who recently retired from competition. The Red Bulls are pushing to retain their hold on first place which they have a one point edge on the DC United who play this evening.
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