The New York Red Bulls won their home opener on Sunday afternoon, 2-0, over D.C. United, powered by a goal and an assist from Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Wright-Phillips scored in the 25th minute when he received a high volley from Dax McCarty from midfield, knocked it down from his spot at the top of the crease, turned and fired it into the back of the net. He later set up Lloyd Sam’s goal in the 71st minute that sealed the win.
Of the extra-effort goal that he scored, Wright-Phillips said, “I just remember Dax having a bit of time, I just had to spin and he found me. I knew I had to take a touch and there were going to be defenders around me, so I tried to get some space and he hit the target.”
The Red Bulls/MetroStars franchise is celebrating its 20th season, and season tickets holders who have attended every single game were honored before it started.
Their main fan section wished the team treated one of their legends with the same respect. They held up a banner proclaiming “Legends Deserve Better” as the game began, in reference to Mike Petke being dismissed as Head Coach in the offseason after a deep playoff run. Petke played for the MetroStars from 1998-2002 and ended his career with the the Red Bulls in the 2009-10 season.
Petke coached the Red Bulls for two seasons. In the 2013 season, they won the Supporters’ Shield, which goes to the team with the best record. In 2014, they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the New England Revolution.
New Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of how important it was to get this win after all the unrest in the offseason, “Yeah, for me, the bigger picture was ‘ was our team ready to put together a good performance and continue to progress and move ourselves forward?’ I know that if we get the inside right and if we get this team right, that everyone will follow and I hope that, again, the fans, whether in the stadium or at home, are getting a sense for what this team’s gonna be and that, despite all the talk about that this team’s gonna have a down year, and it’s a rebuilding year and everything else, that this is a pretty good team, and I think they want to prove it to themselves and prove it to everybody every night out.”
Marsch said of the protest, “Is that what they were, they were doing that?” Marsch then said of winning over the fans, “My goal, again, is the team, and if the team is right, and then people will like the team and then they’ll like me in turn. I’m not trying to win a popularity contest, I’m trying to coach a football team to be the best in the league. So, that’s my sole mission and when we get there, a lot of people will appreciate the work that’s been done.”
Wright-Phillips said of it, “I didn’t even hear that, I didn’t hear that. If I did, I would have been a bit surprised, but obviously he’s a fan hero, they love him here and soon hopefully they’ll be cheering Jeese’s (name) too.”
On how important it was to win the opener without Petke, Wright-Phillips said, “It was very important, I think not just to get the win, but to show them the commitment we have to the fans. We’re working hard every day in training and you can see that on the field today and the work they have put in is unbelievable. And I think if that doesn’t get them into their seats, nothing will.”
Marsch said of the win, “That was a good performance, great to get our first win at home here, and one of our goals this year has been to be very strong at home, and I thought, for the most part, that game was dictated by our guys and played at our tempo, so thought it was a good result.”
Wright-Phillips said to the question of if Marsch changed any of Petke’s system, “Not really, I think we’re playing a similar formation. I think he’s just brought in his different ways of pressuring as a team together, and I think the players he’s brought in have been, it suits us down to the ground.”
Marsch said of his high-pressure system, “I thought that, for the most part, we did put that game on our terms, but I feel like we have another notch to go, so I talked about building blocks in this and what the process will be and I feel like, even with three new guys stepping in from the week before, they all knew their roles, came in and played well, and then, so I feel like that’s in place, but we have a lot more to go on that level.”
Marsch said of how he sees Wright-Phillips’ role changing, “I want him to be around the goal. We want him to be available to score goals because that’s obviously one of his great strengths. But, with all the players, we’re trying to get them to rotate and move in ways so that they’re not just standing next to defenders the whole game. So, for Bradley, the combination of coming deep, going wide sometimes to work off of defenders’ shoulders, and then making slashing runs and being in front of the goal so that he can be available to finish plays. So, I thought that, there’s been all this talk, Bradley didn’t get chances last week (at Kansas City), and is he gonna score goals? And all along I said, I’m not worried about it. Bradley’s gonna score goals, is he gonna get to 27? That’s a big number to get to, but I know he’s gonna score goals and I know this team’s gonna get him to score goals.”
In addition to a new coach, the Red Bulls are without international superstar Thierry Henry, who retired. Wright-Phillips said of the taking on more leadership with Henry gone, “He’s (Marsch) given me more options for the way we’re playing. He’s just giving me ideas on how I can make runs and little things that can help my game and this team, and it seems to be working.”
On if his goal was Henry-esque, Wright-Phillips said, “Do’t put my name in the same sentence as his. I just tried to find a bit of space and it worked.”
On whether he was on the same page with his new teammates in this one more than the season opener, “Yeah, for sure, the Kansas City game obviously was the first game of the season. We were a lot more patient in areas of the game, obviously there’s more to work on.”