After a summer of suffering, the New York Red Bulls have turned their season around, with the latest result the most emphatic yet.
An early Cristian Cásseres goal off of corner kick confusion was enough for the red side of New York to see out its seventh straight result without a defeat, including yet another clean sheet, for a 1-0 victory over New York City FC. City occasionally challenged the Red Bulls net through their long comeback attempt, but Carlos Coronel and the backline secured their third consecutive clean sheet as Gerhard Struber’s team creeps closer and closer into the playoff picture.
On a gorgeous fall afternoon in Harrison, Struber rolled out the latest version of the 3-6-1 or 3-5-2 formation the team has largely stuck with in recent weeks. With Patryk Klimala dealing with a thigh knock, Fabio started as the lone striker with Omir Fernandez and Cristian Casseres assisting the attack behind him.
Casseres would be the ultimate catalyst early. The Venezuelan returning from a week of international duty tenaciously carried the ball up the right side of the pitch in the second minute, at one point being knocked over by City defender Tavon Gray before rising to his feet and continuing the dribble enough to secure a foul on the side of the box. Sean Davis’s delivery on the ensuing restart was knocked down by Andres Reyes into the path of Casseres, who smashed past Sean Johnson to open an extremely early lead.
Though this young Red Bulls team that has often struggled to keep leads this season were staring at 85 minutes of defending against an experienced City side, rarely did the blue side create much action. As remarked post-match by Gerhard Struber and Red Bulls captain Sean Davis, Ronny Deila’s typically possession-based side struggled to escape the press and often resorted to ineffective long balls. Occasional heated skirmishes were largely settled without drama by referee Jair Marrufo as the game remained 1-0 going into the half following a stunning Carlos Coronel kick save in the final moment before the break.
The second half largely carried along the same terms. Though the team were unable to get a second goal (“something we have to improve,” Sean Davis said postgame) multiple unsuccessful chances dropped to substitute Patryk Klimala as the Poland international often challenged the City backline with his speed on Polish fan night in Harrison. The closest City chance came when Alexander Callens hammered a corner kick rebound off the crossbar from long range, but the game wound down with the Red Bulls holding the ball in the corners before the whistle blew to a raucous response from a loud Red Bull Arena crowd.
“We wanted to reward the fans for sticking around through a tough season,” Sean Davis said post-match. “When you have a crowd like that when you’re holding a lead, it lets you know how important getting the result is.”
“First of all...New York is Red,” said Gerhard Struber in his opening press conference statement. “My boys were hungry from the first second and against one of the best possession teams in the whole league, we gave them much stress in these moments.”
Struber has remarked on his team’s struggles holding leads this year but said the difference today was the lessons the team has learned in their pressing structure and their ability to avoid unnecessary running. Though he lamented the team’s continued inability to earn a second goal, Struber expressed excitement with the rivalry result and his team’s growing confidence. Despite the hot form, the Red Bulls are still outside the playoff picture as of Sunday afternoon following unfavorable results in the rest of the league.
“We have a lot of to-do’s in the coming weeks. But the learning curve over the last few weeks gives us confidence. Our big goal is the playoffs.”
His team is starting to exude confidence after sweeping this year’s derby, and defender Sean Nealis said the team is ready for the final crunch.
“Everybody is buying in these last few weeks. We’re learning how to get these wins and learning what to expect. It’s time to regroup and get as many points as we can get.”