A rough result last week left many Red Bulls supporters desperate for not only a win, but a good showing from their team. The Red Bulls delivered against Toronto FC on Saturday night, beating TFC, 2-0, on a beautiful night in Harrison.
Toronto’s tactics were clear from the start: stretch the field as wide as possible and get the ball to Jacob Shaffelburg on the left wing. This was a clear tactic to target youngster Rece Buckmaster, who earned his first MLS start for the Red Bulls after officially signing earlier in the day.
Shaffelburg, a Toronto II product, terrorized the right flank for most of this match. His speed overmatched Buckmaster, who was beaten often. But, when his team needed, Tim Parker stepped up and made crucial tackles, saving the youngster quite a few times.
Toronto had 67 percent of the ball in the first half, but it ended 0-0, thanks in part to a Save of the Year contender by Luis Robles. Shaffelburg looked to have a wide open net after a ball across by Jozy Altidore, but Robles came up with a spectacular one handed stop to keep the ball out.
The second half was miles better for the Red Bulls offense. Royer nearly opened the scoring 50 minutes in, pushing a shot just past the post. Kaku, who struggled most of the first 45, came alive and put in an incredible shift.
In the 55th minute, a gorgeous bit of dribbling saw Kaku split two Toronto defenders and cross a ball in off defender Chris Mavinga, an own goal.
Minutes later, Marc Rzatkowski, who played one of his most technically-sound matches of the year, won a penalty. The penalty kick wizard Daniel Royer stepped up, but uncharacteristically blasted the attempt over the net.
It would not get any better for Royer, as the Austrian was played in behind on a beautiful ball over the top by Kaku, but was unable to finish a clear goal scoring opportunity.
The second half was run by Kaku and his spacial awareness. His pass and move mentality benefited the Red Bulls and contributed to a night that may be looked back on as a turning point of the season.
Bradley Wright-Phillips came on in the 82nd minute and drew a red card shortly thereafter. Robles picked out the forward with a beautiful kick up field, and after winning the first ball, BWP was dragged down by Justin Morrow while away on goal.
Toronto’s night only got worse from there. A long spell of possession by the Red Bulls ended with another cross by Kaku into the box. Quentin Westberg missed the punched clearance, and Kemar Lawrence was on the spot to tap in his first goal of the season.
The goal capped off a very strong performance by Lawrence, who rebounded nicely from a string of poor matches and time out of the lineup.
It was exactly the type of performance the team needed before heading into a titanic match at LAFC on Aug. 11. LAFC has been perfect this season at home in league play, so the Red Bulls will need to carry over their form from this match, and then some, to continue their positive momentum.