In what Gerhard Struber described as a “ping pong moment,” an Ashley Fletcher cross in stoppage time was deflected by New England midfielder Matt Polster into his own net at the stroke of 90 minutes to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 victory to improve to 2nd in the Eastern Conference and maintain their perfect road record in 2022. The choppy but action-filled match saw a red card issued to each side, with New York again navigating the type of stressful match that often slipped away from the young squad in 2021.
On a pleasant Saturday evening with the temperature in the high 40s in Foxborough, Gerhard Struber rolled his team out in a slightly-altered version of the 3-5-2/5-4-1 setup the Austrian has largely used in 2022. Omir Fernandez sat between and slightly behind strikers Patryk Klimala and Tom Barlow while Lewis Morgan moved to a right-sided wingback role.
The acrimonious tone of the match was set early. After a series of chances in the opening minutes — including an Aaron Long set piece collection fired wide, a Patryk Klimala juke of Andrew Farrell that eventually forced a save from New England backup keeper Brad Knighton, and a bouncing ball in the New York penalty area that Justin Rennicks failed to settle and score — the game became bogged down in a physical midfield battle. New England center back Henry Kessler saw the game’s first yellow from referee Victor Rivas after hacking down Lewis Morgan in transition before Tom Barlow, Frankie Amaya, and Dru Yearwood each received cautions for persistent rough challenges before the half.
As the second half started scoreless, the choppiness continued but the rhythm of attack improved for both sides. The biggest opportunities of the half came New England’s way as two separate point blank Sebastian Lletget chances off of Ema Boateng counter attacks were saved impressively by Carlos Coronel.
But eventually the game’s physical nature caught up with the Red Bulls when Amaya received his second yellow card in the 73rd minute after hacking down Boateng on a counter attack. Red Bulls captain Aaron Long claimed postgame that he attempted to convince referee Rivas to give a straight red card to Amaya so the tackle (in which Amaya did get a piece of the ball) could be reviewed, but the call stood and for the rest of the game New York was forced to defend…or so they thought.
Outside of the second of the aforementioned Lletget chances, the Revolution created little danger with their numbers advantage in the game’s closing minutes, and eventually paid the price. After collecting a spilled New England possession near the stoke of 90 minutes, Red Bulls substitute Luquinhas found fellow sub Ashley Fletcher with a raked ball over the New England backline. In an attempt to find the streaking Cristian Cásseres at the far post, Fletcher served in a low cross that recovering New England defender Matt Polster awkwardly turned into his own net to give the Red Bulls a most improbable 1-0 lead. New England striker Adam Buksa was red carded in the game’s closing minutes after a petulant kick out at New York defender Sean Nealis, serving as the microcosm of a nightmare result for a slumping New England side.
Characteristic referee complaints aside, Gerhard Struber could barely contain his thrill at the result, even bringing back his old party trick of toasting a Red Bull can to the press conference camera. After a two-game homestand in which the team was unable to find the final touches to finish its chances, Struber elaborated on the role of luck in the sport and his team’s current record.
“(It’s) a very good feeling for every single player and for the whole coaching staff. I think we invest over the whole game time, we left everything on the field from the first second until the last second.”
“The goal was a little bit lucky, but this is sometimes football and when you invest so many power in a game then you have the luck normally on your side and this was today, I think the reality.”
“I am very happy; I am very proud of this team today with the effort and with the attitude what we show.”
Struber will hope his maturing young side will keep the momentum from the final moments at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night going as the team quickly turns around to face CF Montreal in Harrison next weekend.