On August 30th the New York Red Bulls took on their arch rivals D.C. United for the third time this season, with the result of the Atlantic Cup mini-tournament ending in the Red Bulls favor with two wins at home and a tie at DC.
The Red Bulls pounced on the bad streak (CCL match against Montego Bay aside) that DC United had been, and overcame their own hiccup after falling to Chicago midweek. However, the team that faced Chicago was vastly different from the one which played DC United. All that despite having the exact same line up!
The win was quite emphatic as the Red Bulls pressed the DC United incessantly, ultimately putting in 24 shots with 8 on target, versus United's 9 and 2 respectively. That isn't to say the Red Bulls did not have to do some defending themselves. In fact the team also won 59 duels to United's 50, won 16 tackles to United's 13, and made 17 clearances to United's 16. Though that last category was won by a slim margin, the return of Kemar Lawrence and Damien Perrinelle, surely played a key role in restoring the back line's effectiveness. Robles deserved such a gift of not having to save too much, as his performance against Chicago was stellar - keeping the Red Bulls from conceding 5-6 goals to the hands of the Fire.
All in all the post-match sentiments were somewhat deflated, considering the usual emotional reactions that are interwoven in the Atlantic rivalry games. Despite the immense pride in his team, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch did his best to downplay the victory. Although he did not feel great about the closing minutes, Marsch went on to say: "We set the tone right from the start. I thought we played at a very fast pace and our goal is to always try and make the game fast and overwhelm teams."
Truly the Red Bulls side put the pressure on as they had a number of wonderful scoring opportunities inside the first 30 minutes. After some time, the United defense broke down under the immense pressure the Red Bulls threw at them. It seems to have become a staple of the team to keep the pressure on from the get go. A characteristic Mike Grella felt was reaffirmed in this match, "From start to finish I thought we were very good. Not just in our pressure and our attitude and our mentality, but I thought we were very good with the ball tonight which is good to see. I think we enjoyed this game as well. We knew what was at stake and we took care of business."
Everyone in the dressing room agreed that the midweek loss against the Fire helped kindle that good ole Red Bull Energy to skewer United over the weekend. Kljestan seemed to be the most honest about the situation, "We had a big sense of disappointment for sure and Jesse [Marsch] said right after the game that we're going to come back against D.C., we're going to get a win at home and we're going to forget about Wednesday. We had our foot on the gas pedal and we started everything really well and continued all game." Marsch affirmed the midfielder's sentiments, but was largely dismissive of the matter all together.
Ben Olsen, the DC United head coach, was definitely humbled by his experiences playing the Red Bulls this season. Both games he lost on the road, and he was unable to keep his team focused at home as United broke down to the Red Bulls attack after leading 2-0, ultimately settling for a draw. This past weekend, he embraced the defeat, "Yeah, this isn't about a player, this is a group effort and I'll take the large amount of blame for this loss and that's OK. I thought I prepared them better than I did and I'll take this one."
Overall, the back line looked tattered with the defending on Sam's opening goal, clearly highlighting the poor marking. DC United defender Bobby Boswell was quite lamentable about the suffering his team undergone at Red Bull Arena:
Give them some credit, they came out and hit us hard, hit us early, Bill [Hamid] made some big saves, but we weren't able to take care of the ball. We worked on that during the week, we always focus on that, and anytime you can't do that, especially on the road, you put yourself in a tight spot so we'll learn from this and we've got to put it behind us. I think at this point we need to look at how many games we have left and go out and try and win as many of those as we can. Tonight hurts, it's going to suck for a while, but sometimes that's what happens when you go on the road and you're not the better team.
The Red Bulls are quickly closing in on DC as they currently sit second in the East, and fourth overall. The club is currently only two points behind DC United, and they have the advantage of having played three fewer games. Couple that with a relatively light schedule remaining, the Red Bulls are well within reach to secure first place in the East, if not take the Supporters' Shield back from Seattle.
Nonetheless, Marsch stated that their mentality is refraining from allowing such thoughts to find their way into the focus of the team. When the head coach was asked about discussions of the Supporters' Shield he had this to say, "[It] doesn't come into the locker room at all. Right now it's just about taking a little bit of a break and getting ready for Chicago here. There's nine games to go. That's a lot of games. The minute you stop and start to think that you're better than you are, that's when you slip."
Truth be told with 2 games against Chicago left, there is no chance of being able to assert victory in either games, as has been the case in recent times, particularly last year. Nonetheless, the team is feeling great after this victory, and have been given an extended rest period, returning to action on September 11th, against Chicago.