In a game where the New York Red Bulls once again put their suffocating pressing defense on display, the team finally added goals to a dominant performance.
Goals from Luquinhas, Cristian Cásseres and Lewis Morgan were spread on top of another suffocating defensive performance to give the Red Bulls a comfortable 3-0 win over Orlando City in central Florida on Sunday. New York outshot Orlando 17 to 3 and leapfrogs the Lions into 2nd place on the Eastern Conference table. The Red Bulls also maintain their paradoxically perfect away record in season where the team is yet to win at home.
Coming off a midweek cup victory in Hartford in which he heavily rotated his team, New York manager Gerhard Struber rolled out the same lineup as in his team’s last league fixture against Dallas last weekend. Ashley Fletcher started again as a lone striker in a single-striker formation that Struber said after the game is meant to encourage the midfielders forward more. His gambit paid off on Sunday as three of his attacking midfielders got on the scoresheet.
After a cagey opening 20 minutes where Orlando shouts for a red card on Fletcher after a tangle-up with Ruan set the tone for a chippy afternoon, New York found an early breakthrough. In the 26th minute, Luquinhas received the ball from Omir Fernandez after the duo were sprung by inventive switch play between Sean Nealis and Lewis Morgan. The Brazilian settled the ball with a single touch before swerving his foot into an unorthodox poke finish with his laces to slot past Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese.
New York would continue to smother Orlando’s possession-based attack, with the Florida side struggling to create a single shot in the opening period, but also drawing foul trouble for the Red Bulls. Four yellows were handed out to New York by referee Alex Chilowitz in the first half, with two being handed out on the same play when Luquinhas and then Lewis Morgan attempted to chop down an Orlando counter-attack.
Going into halftime with a 1-0 lead Struber would tell the ESPN broadcast, as he did after the chippy midweek Hartford game, that his team lost some of their tactical focus in some of the physical scuffles. But such slipping didn’t show after halftime, as the Red Bulls put Orlando to the sword even further.
Cristian Cásseres, who entered the game for a slightly injured Luquinhas at the half, doubled New York’s lead after being fed through by Fletcher on a quick counter in which Gallese saved his first shot before Cásseres pushed into an empty net.
Orlando generated little in attack, with New York’s dominance emphasized in their one semi-breakthrough. Ercan Kara was given a free run on goal after an apparent offside, but Carlos Coronel forcefully stopped his breakaway anyway before the linesman raised his flag. In game where New York’s shaky set piece defending improved, it was instead Orlando center back Rodrigo Schlegel who committed a hand ball clearing a free kick in the game’s final ten minutes. Lewis Morgan stepped up to take the penalty and easily slotted past Gallese to confirm New York’s statement win.
“We dominated and had control over the whole game time,” said Gerhard Struber post-match.
“This was a very interesting matchup as far as pressing against possession and all the cards went our direction. Orlando was not able to find a plan against our style of play. We created our own game and in the end we beat a top, top team in this league.”
“For whatever reason right now, the boys are liking our backs against the wall,” said team captain Aaron Long after another clean sheet put together by his backline.
“Sticking together, kind of that us against the world mentality. In a really tough environment like this and a lot of places we went to so far have been tough environments, we find a way.”
The next step for Long’s team is finding a way to win without hostile surroundings motivating them. New York has scored just twice in four home matches so far this year, and Gerhard Struber said bringing the team’s road form back to Harrison is high on the agenda.
“We invest everything today and this is also I think in the most of the games, the most important thing is that you are ready to invest in the end. And I think for that we have to work also at home and my boys are ready and sharp and hungry that the situation that we win at home will come very soon I have a very very good feeling about it.”