As 2022 has gone on, New York Red Bulls fans have been willing to give their inconsistent team the benefit of the doubt as long as their away form remained perfect. On Sunday night, that benefit of the doubt officially expired.
Goals from Ariel Lassiter and Christopher Taylor put Inter Miami past the Red Bulls with some ease in a game New York fell out of early. On a hot, humid night in Fort Lauderdale, Gerhard Struber’s heavily rotated team struggled to find much cohesion and fight in coming back, lilting to their first away loss of 2022 and dropping to 5th in the Eastern Conference.
The match began with Struber continuing to juggle his lineup during a congested May schedule ahead of an Open Cup game against Charlotte midweek. Playing a 4-2-2-2 with Lewis Morgan and Cristian Casseres as wide attacking midfielders, Struber’s setup in Fort Lauderdale was far from a typical one for New York in 2022. Recent breakout star Luquinhas began on the bench along with John Tolkin, who remains in covid protocols. More surprisingly, Ryan Meara started in goal after what Struber said post-match was a kidney stone suffered by talismanic starter Carlos Coronel.
Meara would perform capably enough in game that the Red Bulls never looked close in against Eastern Conference bottom-feeders Miami. After controlling possession for the first fifteen minutes or so and creating multiple appetizing chances including Lewis Morgan firing a cutback over the net and Patryk Klimala getting stuffed by Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender on a breakaway, New York lilted in the Florida early summer heat.
Miami first broke the deadlock in the 30th minute when Ariel Lassiter squared up at the top of the New York box after a spell of possession and ripped a shot that deflected off Red Bulls defender Sean Nealis and slipped in just wide of Meara. Miami would control much of the later parts of the first half, nearly doubling their advantage when Leandro Campana was played in free on Meara but blasted his shot into the stands.
At halftime Gerhard Struber returned to the Cameron Harper experiment as the Scottish-American attacker entered in his new signature wingback role and created more of his typically direct danger down the right side. Fifteen minutes into the half Struber would put on Luquinhas and slew of additional substitutions to keep his struggling side fresh. But as New York chased the game, Miami repeatedly found looks on the other end until finally putting the game out of reach.
After another Lassiter breakaway was heroically stopped by Meara and Dylan Nealis cleared a Victor Ulloa shot off the line minutes later, it was Miami wideman Robert Taylor who put the game out of reach for the Red Bulls in the 88th minute. After surprise substitute Gonzalo Hiquain gathered the ball in the final third and laid it off for Taylor, the British-Finnish import engaged in a 1-2 with Ulloa to draw out Meara before finishing into an empty net to end New York’s unbeaten away record.
“We don’t deserve a point today,” Gerhard Struber said post-match.
“After the first 15-20 minutes, we lose our aggression, we lose our intensity. This is special weather yes, but it was the same for (Miami) and we will not search for excuses. Games like these require a resilience and killer mentality and we did not show that today.”
Having used a 4-0 win in Miami last year to spark a hot streak that got New York in the playoffs, the Red Bulls must ensure Sunday’s loss does not become a turning point the same way this fixture did last year. This was reiterated by defender Sean Nealis in his post-match comments.
“(Losing control of this game) is more on us than anything Miami did,” said Nealis.
“The guys are very pissed off now and really eager to turn things around and that starts Wednesday against Charlotte in the Open Cup.”