It was the best 90 minutes the New York Red Bulls have played in 2017. Don’t @ me.
RBNY traveled to Boston with a severely depleted squad to play New England Revolution on a shabby carpet at Harvard University. The starting lineup revealed what many students of the Red Bulls’ squad suspected: call-ups and injuries had savaged the team’s defensive options.
And yet the patchwork back line held its own and the Revs were kept off the board, meaning Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 87th-minute goal was the match-winner - and RBNY will play in the semifinals of US Open Cup for the first time since 2003.
The biggest moment before the goal was Benjamin Angoua’s ejection from the game in the 75th minute, putting the Revolution down to 10 men. A foul on BWP didn’t seem sufficient to warrant a red card, nor did it seem to be for some imagined infraction. The official MLS record states “violent conduct”, but there was none evident. Perhaps Angoua said something referee Jorge Gonzalez didn’t like.
Whatever the reason, it was a big break for RBNY and the team capitalized. The 87th-minute match-winner came from a through-ball from Felipe aimed at the spot BWP was asking for a pass to be played to - and the Red Bulls’ all-time top-scorer bagged his first-ever goal in USOC.
“It makes it easy when you go against ten men, but we did a great job holding the ball and being patient,” said Wright-Phillips after the match. “It probably helped us against these teams - NYC, Philly and New England - because they are rivals. There is bad blood and it’s easy to get ready for this.”
Perhaps another benefit of playing the opponents repeatedly in a short span of time is the chance to figure out what works. The Red Bulls beat the Revs on July 5 off a Felipe through-ball to Gonzalo Veron - the finish was a little tougher, but the concept wasn’t all that different from BWP’s winner on July 13.
That said, head coach Jesse Marsch, knew he had to change things up after the win at Gillette Stadium last week - he didn’t have much choice. The squad was thin, selections had to be made based on fitness rather than form and tactics drawn up for a new-look lineup.
“We’ve had to dig deep in the season, we’ve had to dig deep in games and that was what we’ve been trying to build this year. We still have a long way to go but that shows massive growth - to come to New England, tough places to play, twice within a week,” Marsch said after the game.
“The other part is we played with one center back,” he said, a sort of triumphant disbelief entering his voice as he listed the chopping and changing he was forced to do to get a team on the field this week.
We had a bunch of guys playing different positions than they normally play, we arranged things a little bit different tactically. We just asked the group to out-compete, out-run, out-will the match, and that’s what they did. And then they played some pretty darn good football too.
Obviously a big moment for our guys, a big moment for our club, we’re really excited to be in a semifinal, that’s for sure.
On Friday, July 14, at 11 am, Eastern, the Red Bulls will watch the US Open Cup draw to see whether they will host or be on the road for that semifinal. Either way, they are on their deepest run in the Cup for more than a decade and the plan to keep that run going starts being made on the journey home from Harvard.