Designated player Luquinhas led the way with the opening goal and an assist to John Tolkin for the crucial second score. Substitute Zach Ryan sealed an advance to the final 16 of the cup with his first professional goal in the game’s latter stages as New York routed their old rivals at Audi Field in Washington.
With goalscorer Tolkin saying postmatch that the Red Bulls consider the Open Cup “important” to their ambitions this year, New York manager Gerhard Struber came out with a largely senior starting eleven with some exceptions. With midfielder Cristian Casseres suspended, striker Ashley Fletcher still short of full fitness, and attackers Patryk Klimala and Lewis Morgan held out of the match due to covid protocols, Struber turned to depth forward Tom Barlow up top and gave a first senior level start to homegrown midfielder Daniel Edelman.
Meanwhile DC interim coach Chad Ashton, citing rotation concerns as they seek to salvage their league season after the firing of manager Hernan Losada last month, rolled out a largely second-string unit of an already-young United squad. Though the youthful side held the Red Bulls at bay for the game’s opening stages, the match ended up being a rare instance of New York having an edge in veteran know-how.
The game’s early moments were marked by what remains a scare for Red Bulls fans as team captain Aaron Long was substituted in the game’s first ten minutes with what Gerhard Struber later described as “tightness in the calf” that the team was “optimistic” was not a major issue. With a packed schedule in the coming weeks, Long walked off the field on his own power as Struber gave a 2022 debut to Brazilian-Uruguayan loanee Lucas Monzon in his stead.
The match remained largely even through most of the first half as both sides covered large amounts of ground but struggled to create an end product. But in the half’s last ten minutes New York’s growing possession game took hold, eventually leading to a classy breakthrough in stoppage time. Dru Yearwood collected the ball high in midfield before carrying to the edge of the box where a no-look through ball with the outside of his foot found Luquinhas who slid to connect with a first time shot past DC keeper Rafael Romo to take the lead.
The second half saw New York grow in comfort and triple their advantage as the young DC side lost energy and focus. In the 48th minute Luquinhas was at the center of proceedings again as the Brazilian scampered down the right side before cutting a low cross that John Tolkin turned into the DC net with an unorthodox right-footed finish. After playing every minute of the season thus far, Tolkin would make way minutes later for Jason Pendant as Struber began adjusting the lineup towards more long-term rotation and squad-building ends.
Venezuelan teenager Jesus Castellano would make his first team debut as a substitute, while Scottish-American wide player Cameron Harper made a surprise return to first team action after what Struber said were long-term injury difficulties over the last year. Harper would set up the game’s victory cigar goal as his cutback in the 68th minute found fellow reserve Zach Ryan, who finished for his first professional goal and secured a 3-0 win for the Red Bulls.
“Right now, you can see a team is not 11 or 18 players. A team is 20 or 25 players,” said Gerhard Struber post-match.
“I think it is important that we have to use all the players that are available and I think all the new faces on the field today show me, yeah, they are talents. They can help the team in situations like that and yeah, I have a very good feeling right now.”
“We can see how important Luquinhas is for us to create overload moments, to create the right passes, and then we can see how easy it is to score. Especially some new faces coming in the game, Daniel Edelman today a starting player, the first time for him in the Open Cup and he created and also had a good game. With Cameron Harper in the second half, we can see his dribbling ability, also he was clean in the box.”
John Tolkin expressed a thrill with the team’s performance in a hostile venue and a growing confidence ahead of the weekend’s match against Philadelphia with first place in the Eastern Conference at stake.
“It’s always a tough place to come here and win. Obviously last year, we didn’t get a win here, so we’re really happy with this. It helps us with our momentum and we carry it on to this weekend with a big game against Philly.”
Struber echoed the team’s confidence about facing a Red Bull-styled Philadelphia team he expressed respect for post-game but expects to continue their perfect away record against.
“They show us always some gaps what we have to improve and I hope the gaps on Saturday are not so big, and my boys are ready, brave with a good match plan and hopefully in a good fitness situation and then I think we have a good chance also to create in Philadelphia, a very good performance.”