After a frustrating first two weeks in which encouraging performances were dampened by fitness issues and isolated mistakes, the New York Red Bulls finally put a complete game together and outclassed the Chicago Fire for a 2-0 final score. Cristian Casseres put away a Fabio pullback cross to put New York ahead almost immediately after halftime, with a characteristic Caden Clark volley putting the finishing touch on a game where the Red Bulls dominated.
The opening half saw both teams create openings but lacking sharpness in the final third. The midfield battle was often choppy, with Chicago’s tall side attempting to bully New York’s young midfield, with the typically-genteel Sean Davis earning a yellow for a late clattering as the Red Bulls attempted to match the energy. The Red Bulls came closest to scoring through a 36th minute Fabio chance where the Brazilian collected a ball off Tom Barlow’s turn in the box before firing off the back post.
At the halftime whistle, manager Gerhard Struber told his team he liked what he saw and for them to keep on the same track. “I thought we were unlucky in the first half. I told the team to keep working and that we are ready for our first victory based on what I saw in the first half.”
The continued focus paid dividends almost immediately through a Cristian Casseres goal in the 47th minute. After a tenacious battle with Johan Kapplehof on a long ball down the right side, Fabio gathered the ball at the end line and patiently slotted the ball back to the top of the box where Casseres awaited to smash the ball into the net past a discombobulated Chicago defense.
In addition to dogged pressing work, Fabio earned another assist later in half. As New York increasingly attacked in waves, Sean Davis collected a second ball in the 64th minute and immediately lobbed it into the box, where for the second home game in a row the 6’4” Fabio nodded the ball back for Caden Clark, who rifled home his latest stunning volley finish. With his two assist day the Brazilian has now impressed just about every way besides scoring. “Fabio is brilliant, his ability to hold the ball up and make passes,” Clark said post match. “We are ready for his goals, but even now (Fabio) already helps the team very much,” said his manager Gerhard Struber.
Struber’s team largely controlled the match in a last twenty minutes that resembled a conveniently-timed training drill for his still-gelling team. The Red Bulls kept the game largely halfcourt, with the most dangerous chances to go three up frequently falling to the active and dangerous Daniel Royer. However, the game held at 2-0 to ensure Struber’s first win in North American soccer.
“It’s a good feeling for my whole coaching staff, the team, every single player. In our first two games we were very close and to finally get a win today gives us a big belief in our way. Today was different (from the first two matches of the season) in that from the first to the last whistle, everything was in our control.”
Struber retiterated that his team is still not close to top form with many players (including Fabio, who was substituted despite his productive perfromance) still approaching full match fitness. “It’s maybe not sexy in the media, but we had been seeing the next steps (in early games) and want that to continue.”
Struber’s team turns around hoping to maintain the new-found winning form with a highly-symbolic match up with Toronto FC and Struber’s predecessor in the New York job, Chris Armas.