With another week and another new formation, the New York Red Bulls finally found a winning formula in a comprehensive 2-1 victory over Orlando City SC in Harrison. Caden Clark and Cristian Casseres scored on each side of the half as New York notched its third consecutive home win.
The first half was not without its pratfalls (including an injury exit for Frankie Amaya) but was largely dominated by New York. Sean Nealis and Tom Edwards stood out as vocal and active rudders for the team from the center of defense, even helping in some of the build-up play in the final third as the Red Bulls pinned Orlando back. A series of crosses came in for the energetic duo of Patryk Klimala and Daniel Royer and a barely-saved Nealis corner kick opportunity brought New York close before the breakthrough came in the 35th minute.
Caden Clark yet again started and ended a scoring play beginning with a counterpress win-back and cross for Klimala at the back post. Though no shot was created, Klimala was able to control the loose ball and send a cross back across Pedro Gallese’s goal, where Clark awaited at the previous post to slot home for a 1-0 New York lead.
With Dru Yearwood entering for a Frankie Amaya who was injured on the scoring play, the Red Bulls opened the first half with the same momentum as Yearwood nearly scored off a corner kick rebound in the opening moments. As New York continued to barrage the Orlando goal, the lead was finally doubled in the 60th minute. After a foul outside the corner of the box, Cristian Cásseres Jr bent home a direct free kick with ease for his third goal of the young season.
However the game would slightly slip out of New York’s grasp in the closing moments. An Orlando team near the top of the conference who Gerhard Struber noted postgame that “we need to respect” was able to get a foothold late sending waves of attacks in the game’s last fifteen or so minutes. They eventually clawed one goal back through Silvester Van Der Water in the 84th minute while New York huffed and puffed waiting for subs Brian White and Omir Fernandez to enter. But the team soon regained their energy through the subs and closed out their third straight home victory.
Manager Gerhard Struber was ecstatic postgame, stating that “every single player showed me today that they are ready for this level of opponent. Orlando is a big team with many options and we maybe cannot always have control, but that makes me (even more impressed) by the 85 minutes or so of the game that we did control.”
The continued production of the team’s young players seemed to excite Struber perhaps even more than the result, stating that he knows after today’s result that he has “a big roster” ready to take on the challenges of MLS and the professional game. “For many of these players, the intensity (of my system and MLS play) is at a different level than they’ve experienced before. It’s not easy to bring in players from entirely different football cultures when there are so many rules in our football...but it’s exciting to see how many minutes of the game were in our way.”
Caden Clark responded with a mirror of praise for Struber’s handling of the game, stating that his slight adjustment in the formation (playing Clark as a 10 at the top of the midfield diamond instead of a shuttling number 8) brought out the best in him. “Coach was spot on with the tactics today, both in pressing and attacking. I think the 10s and the 8s in this system do a lot of the same things, just different parts of the field.”
Clark said that the positional change allowed him to get into the box more while still following the “rules” mentioned by Struber. In a game where Cristian Cásseres continued his productive form (with Struber saying the Venezuelan “understands my football exactly”) and John Tolkin put in a reliable 90 minutes in a first senior start at left back, the young squad assembled for Struber is clearly raising their level to his liking. At an important point of the season as the team rests for an international break, maintaining this level of improvement could pay dividends for Struber and his players.