The New York Red Bulls finally got their first home win of 2022 in some slightly unusual circumstances on Wednesday night.
While the team still awaits their first league win at home and their first win of any kind at Red Bull Arena, Gerhard Struber’s team secured a cathartic 3-1 victory over Charlotte FC at Montclair State University to advance to the last eight of the US Open Cup. Goals from Patryk Klimala, Dylan Nealis, and Tom Barlow were enough to both survive the round of 16 as well as emphatically turn around what was threatening to become a slump after disappointing results against Chicago and Miami and in the previous week.
Struber rolled out close to a full-strength lineup in what he calls a “sexy tournament” that New York hopes to win – even traditional cup goalie Ryan Meara replaced by starter Carlos Coronel for the high-pressure match. The increasingly-fit Patryk Klimala started up top and got the Red Bulls off to a dream start.
After a scramble following a corner kick in the second minute, Klimala roofed the ball into the net from point-blank range to put the game on New York’s terms early. But in a defensive lapse just minutes later, the Red Bulls nearly lost grip. After recent Charlotte signing Andre Shinyashiki flicked a sombrero over New York defender, his layoff to Daniel Rios was buried into the net to bring the game back level.
Charlotte were able to briefly come off their back foot, but a sharp Red Bulls team began to threaten as the first half went on. Patryk Klimala again was central to much of the danger created, including a feed for Omir Fernandez that wasn’t quite converted and a left-footed cutback that skimmed the post. The game became chippy and physical as referee Ernie Constantine began handing out the first of what would be six yellow cards in the match to Charlotte’s Brandt Bronico before New York’s Dylan Nealis and Daniel Edelman would be cautioned before the half.
After the break Charlotte threatened early, with Jozwiak forcing an acrobatic save from Carlos Coronel on a headed chance in the 59th minute. The chippiness continued as Charlotte won several free kicks early in the second period. But on a counter attack after one of those free kicks in the 63rd minute, Klimala used his speed to burn past Guzman Corujo to cut the ball to Dylan Nealis at the back post to give the Red Bulls a cathartic lead. The game continued to see more of what Gerhard Struber calls the “infighting” that his team’s physical style can generate, with multiple shouts for Charlotte’s Bronico to receive a second yellow amidst a flurry of rough challenges and square-ups.
But the game stayed largely in New York’s control before the final dagger came in stoppage time. Following a rough game in which his manager Struber said he was lucky to not get injured, Luquinhas pressed and won the ball from the Charlotte defense upfield. His subsequent cutback across goal found substitute Tom Barlow, who returned to his old Red Bulls II stomping grounds in Montclair to score a victory cigar goal just minutes after flubbing an earlier breakaway chance. The victory puts New York in the final eight of the Open Cup, with a derby date next month against New York City FC after the rivals defeated New England Revolution in Queens on Wednesday night.
“It’s a very good feeling,” said Gerhard Struber post-match. “We expect a game of high aggression and my boys handled that. We saw Charlotte kind of change their play from being a team that treasures possession to a team that played more long balls and sometimes it was a struggle to find good setups against that but my boys got better as the game went on.”
Despite his expectation of physicality, Struber went on an extended diatribe about what he considered poor officiating by referee Ernie Constantine and his crew.
“This is such a problem for MLS and the US federation that when you play football at this level and have referees that are not ready for that - from the tempo, from the physical side and from the confidence to make good decisions. We can be happy that Luquinhas is not injured after this game. The refereeing today was outstanding bad and this goes in both directions – it causes problems for Charlotte as well.”
Goalscorer Dylan Nealis concurred that he “would’ve liked to see more cards” for the physical play that broke out but that he and his teammates handled the situation well.
“It is what it is. We like these kind of feisty games, it was a real cup game. We just have to bring that intensity into the DC game (this weekend) and then the next round of the cup.”
Patryk Klimala said postgame that the derby matchup in the next round against New York City will be a “great game” and that the Red Bulls will enter it in a confident mood.
“I cannot see any defender in our league and any team who can defend our style of playing forward. Today we could show this.”