(Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips – Photo credit: Mike Lawrence)
The New York Red Bulls got a much-needed win on Tuesday night in the US Open Cup, as they dominated the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks on their way to a 3-0 win.
The Red Bulls have hit a rough patch in MLS play, as they have dropped three straight after starting out 4-1-5.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of the U.S. Open Cup tournament, “Yeah, we are taking this tournament as serious as any match as we play all year. We are going to find ways to put good lineups on the field. Not sure who we will draw next but there is a good chance that it will be a MLS team. If it not, whoever it is we are going to take like we are one step closer to winning a championship. We put a very good team on the field, I thought from the first minute they commanded the game. Regardless of who is on the field for the game, obviously you look at the selection and say “yeah that is our first group”, but whoever is on the field for this game we are going to put forth our best effort because that’s who we are as a team. We are taking this tournament seriously and we want to win this U.S. Open Cup tournament.”
This was just the kind of game that could restore order for the Red Bulls, and it didn’t take long for them to break through.
In the 7th minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips came in on the right side of the box, and dropped it back to Lloyd Sam, who buried it to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for them to strike again, as Ronald Zubar, in his first game action since leaving the season opener with an injury on March 8, made it 2-0 in the 15th minute, as he put back the rebound of a Sacha Kljestan shot off of a corner kick. After the goal, Zubar ran right to the Red Bulls bench and gave Head Coach Jesse Marsch a big hug, lifting him off the ground.
Zubar said of what it was like to come back and score tonight after his injury, “Well it’s been a wonderful night for me so just to be out there today, I mean I never thought about scoring, I dream about it to be honest, but that is not my job so I just want to get back and play. I’ve been out for three months so it’s great to be in the lineup tonight and the plan was to play 45 minutes or maybe a little bit less. I feel okay so I said to Jesse [Marsch], let’s go to 45, so [I] just go out there and enjoy so it was a great game for me because I like a game like that when you have a challenge and you have to fight to win so that was about tonight…and to have a chance to score that was a really wonderful feeling to be out there at home, it feels so good at home field. It wasn’t [full] tonight, but for me it look like it so great great feeling.”
Zubar said of whether Jesse Marsch was the first person to come to mind when he scored: “Yes of course because being close to me since my injury, he never let me down, we were always really close, talk all the time, try to find the good way to come out of this injury so it was up and down, up and down. Sometimes I felt like I was really close and I wasn’t so he helped me also, all the time with everything especially outside of the field. When you’re injured or hurt, he’s always over and you just think about soccer all the time, [and to] play, and you couldn’t so [he’s] been like family for me really from the start.”
After the second goal, the play gradually turned rougher. Lloyd Sam took a hard hit in the 18th minute, and Marsch couldn’t believe there was no card. Sam stayed in, but was pulled in the 24th minute, and was reported to later have a groin and ankle injury.
Marsch said of Sam’s injury, “If you take the field ever being afraid of getting injuries then you are going to put yourself in a position to get injuries and you are never going to compete for anything. This is part of our world, we think that Lloyd will be fine. We think it is a minor injury but we will continue to address it day to day here as we go. We are hopeful that he will be able to recover and hopefully be ready for Saturday.
“It was an ankle and a groin injury. He got whacked and his ankle turned a bit and at the same time it tweaked his groin a little bit too because it threw his leg out. He thinks that they are both fairly minor. We will address where he is at, it is day to day,” said Marsch.
In the 70th minute, Wright-Phillips came in, and got it to Mike Grella, who went right. With two Atlanta defenders on him, Grella dropped a backheel pass to Sean Davis, who got an opening and put a left-footed shot past a diving Steward Ceus from the top of the penalty area to make it 3-0 Red Bulls.
Marsch said of Sean Davis’s performance and his first professional goal, “It has been difficult because we have seen Sean do well every day. I know for him he has had to have patience and he has got a very good attitude about it and he understands that the three players in the middle of the field that are playing ahead of him are all doing quite well. They are good players and he is learning from them every day. But he has established himself with this group. I think every guy on this team was really happy to see him score that goal and everyone is behind him. It hasn’t been easy for him but he has kept a good mentality and he was rewarded for it tonight. I would also like to throw Leo Stoltz in that category too. Almost behind Sean has been Leo. Leo has had much less reward because he hasn’t been on the 18-man roster much but he has done well in training. He continues to establish himself and do well with USL. We are trying to keep these guys moving in the right direction and the progress moving forward but also in the process hopefully find changes for them to get them more opportunities.”
Sean Davis said of his first professional goal, “No it was a special night for me obviously getting that goal, but more importantly the team is back on track, and its been a tough couple weeks for us, but its nice to get a nice win tonight. Everyone has worked really hard, training has been great this past week, the attitude has been great and I’m really proud of the guys.”
On talking to Mike Grella to give him the ball on the assist, Davis said, “Yeah we kind of have that Duke connection. He just knew I was there, perfect back heel, and I think a lot of the credit has to go to him really because it was perfectly weighted. He was very aware, and I was at the top of the box with an open shot. I’m lucky to have Grella there on that play.”
Red Bulls midfielder Dane Richards had a big chance in the 80th minute, coming in from the right side, but Ceus made an amazing save. Ceus stayed down for a few minutes, but was fine.
The second half was very rough, and the referees let it get out of hand. All the tension boiled over in the 89th minute after a challenge between Mike Grella and Atlanta’s Simon Mensing. After they exchanged a couple of punches, it was broken up rather quickly.