After a stutter on opening night, the New York Red Bulls have been just about flawless at home and continued their confident form with a convincing 2-0 win over Nashville SC in Harrison. Fábio Gomes Netto scored his first MLS goal just ahead of halftime before Kyle Duncan sealed the victory with a second half strike.
Yet again Gerhard Struber rolled out an unexpected lineup as Tom Edwards - signed from Stoke City as a fullback and coming off a sturdy performance at center back against Orlando - lined up in the middle of the formation as a deep holding midfielder. Also notable was the first starting lineup pairing of Patryk Klimala and newly-renewed Fábio, the team’s two marquee striker signings from the offseason.
The first half saw a cagey Nashville bunker in and allow New York to monopolize possession - often to Gerhard Struber’s chagrin. The Austrian appeared frequently frustrated with the passing angles created by the unorthodox formation. Frequently grimacing at the positions being taken by wide players to receive passes that often angled backwards, Struber implored his defenders to hit the ball long at Nashville’s deep setup.
The breakthrough finally happened through one of those long balls. After an offside call against Nashville in the shallow New York half, Sean Nealis launched a route-one dead ball to Patryk Klimala, who was strong enough under pressure to flick the ball over to Fábio who powerfully volleyed the ball in off the post to put the Red Bulls ahead before the half. It was a cathartic way for the Brazilian to score his first MLS goal, and he immediately seemed to show more urgency in his runs soon after.
After a quick substitution of Edwards for Dru Yearwood early in the second half, the Red Bulls pounced on second balls and frequently dragged Gary Smith’s formation up and down the pitch. Eventually Struber’s first half fixation with fullback spacing paid off as enough space opened up for Kyle Duncan to collect a Caden Clark wide ball and dribble towards the Nashville box. Duncan unleashed a powerful left-footed shot that found the inside of Joe Willis’ post to double the Red Bulls advantage.
The second half fell firmly in the growing pattern of Red Bulls home matches under Struber. Nashville eventually tired and flustered under the constant buzz of New York’s young midfield. One particular moment where Caden Clark took former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty to the corner to outmuscle him in combat over the ball was a poetic example of the new era taking shape in Harrison.
“This is a massive win against another difficult opponent,” Struber said post-match. “It was a different formation with new spacing and I saw next steps. I saw synchronized pressing, I saw the backline moving in synchronization. Each game I see us reaching a higher level.”
The scorer of the game’s final dagger Kyle Duncan credited Struber with maturing his game this season, both at individual level and setting goals for the team. “He’s always telling us to focus on the next moment, that they can decide the game. We have (playing at home) down pat, and now we have to use these games as motivation to go and win away.”
Winning on the road was emphasized as the latest next step for Struber as he steers the team through the remainder of the summer. “We have to reproduce this performance against our next big opponent (New England) and I think my team is ready to pick up points away.”
Striker Patryk Klimala, who expressed excitement to finally be at full 90-minute fitness, was more blunt about the team’s expectations going forward. When asked about the quickly-arriving midweek match against New England, Klimala curtly stated “we will win the game.”