(Red Bulls midfielder Bolu Akinyode heads one past Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
The New York Red Bulls routed defending English Premier League champion Chelsea, 4-2, on Wednesday night in the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls had to go with their second unit and players from their youth team, NYRB 2 in this one, as they used their main guys on Tuesday afternoon for their US Open Cup game with Philadelphia. Instead of their stars like Bradley Wright-Phillips, Luis Robles, and Sacha Kjelstan, they went with Tyler Adams, Sean Davia, and Kyle Reynish.
Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of takeaways from this match, “I think it’s important to have perspective. Clearly, they’re going to walk out of this game with a lot of confidence and bravado, but it’s a chance for them to have a big experience, and help cement some of the confident things we’re trying to build in them and the experiences we’re trying to build in them, so without them getting too much ahead of themselves, hopefully it affirms all of the work they’ve put in for the last six months, and that their coaching staff has so that they have the confidence to move forward in a real way and not an arrogant way.”
Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho said of the Red Bulls, “The kids they picked tonight were very good opponents for us – sharp, quick, fast, high motivation, I believe so happy to play against Chelsea. They gave us a good match, maybe better than they should, but a very good match.”
Mourinho continued and shed some light into what he wanted to take from this match, their first of what is their preseason, as the English Premier League season kicks off on August 8th. “They gave us a good training session. If we came in today and won 10-0, I wouldn’t be happy with that because it means there was no intensity and it was too easy, and that’s not good for us. We needed the game they gave us,” said Mourinho.
Chelsea came out firing, with their first chance coming in the seventh minute, as Victor Moses got a point-blank chance and Kyle Rennish came up with the save. In the 18th, Oscar had a free kick and sent it just over the crossbar. In the 20th, Kurt Zouma sent a brilliant header just wide.
In the 26th minute, Chelsea finally broke through. A long pass was sent to the right side of the field, and Oscar caught up to it. Oscar took it near the corner, and then sent it into the box to Loic Remy coming down the center of the crease, and Remy drilled it to make it 1-0 Chelsea.
Around this time, Chelsea’s big stars who were not in the game, like captain John Terry, Diego Costa, Ramires, and Eden Hazard went into the corner near Chelsea’s bench to do their running drills in preparation to enter the game. The crowd in that end gave them applause throughout the drills, which lasted through the end of the first half.
Most of the applause was for their captain John Terry, and he got the loudest cheers of anybody they sent in for the second half. Terry is their Derek Jeter and Mark Messier, a consummate leader who has led them to four English Premier League titles (2005, 2006, 2010, 2015) and the UEFA Champions League in 2012. Terry, a central defender, is 34 years old and playing some of his best soccer ever, competing in all 38 games in the English Premier League season last year. He has been with Chelsea since 2001, leading the team for most of this time with Frank Lampard, now at NYC FC, and Didier Drogba, who was at Chelsea for years, left and returned for this past title season. Drogba is a free agent at the moment, as rumors of a move to the MLS have been around since the end of their season in May.
The Red Bulls began the second half with a renewed energy, and they took it to Chelsea. In the 49th minute, they drew Chelsea goalie Asmir Begovic to the right post, leaving the net wide open. Terry was to Begovic’s left and stuck his foot out to stop a definite Red Bull goal.
What Terry took away, he wound up giving right back. Just a minute later, he sent a sloppy pass back to Begovic, and Franklin Castellanos slipped in to draw it away from Begovic and slam it home to tie the game at 1 in the 51st minute and send the crowd into a frenzy.
In the 70th, Castellanos sent one into the box, and Chelsea defender Ola Aina tried to head it away, but it went right to Red Bulls defender Tyler Adams, who is just 16 years old, and he shot it past Aina to make it 2-1 Red Bulls. Even though it was an exhibition (don’t believe the fancy tournament name), Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho was not pleased and pulled Aina immediately. Aina was part of the group that entered to start the second half.
In the 73rd minute, another bad header by Chelsea would be costly. This time, it was their stalwart defender Nemanja Matic, at the left of the crease, who headed it to Sean Davis in the center and he sent it through traffic to make it 3-1.
In the 75th, Chelsea showed why they were an elite team, something surely needed after this Red Bull onslaught. Eden Hazard scored off a beautiful free kick by Oscar to cut it to 3-2 Red Bulls.
Amazingly, just a couple minutes later, the Red Bulls crashed the net again, and Davis got his second goal of the game to make it 4-2 in the 77th. This capped a stretch of four goals in eight minutes. Davis said of scoring twice, “You know, I never really thought that we had them. They are such a great team that they could come back at any moment. They have so many great players, that a lot of us look up too. So the game could change quickly. I think after the fourth one we were feeling pretty good. We knew that they were a great team and they could turn it on at any moment.”
Marsch was asked if this game changed his idea of rotating younger players in upcoming matches, “Sean Davis was really good tonight, I thought he and Tyler Adams were fantastic. The Benfica game (on Sunday at Red Bull Arena), we’ll rotate more first team guys in and there will be kind of a mixed line-up for both halves, in these games, what I’ve found is that as both a player and a coach, that if you’re confident and ready to play, your game can hold up a lot even against really good players.”
Marsch said of implementing the same playing style through all levels, “I think that looked like a Red Bull team [tonight]. I think it’s important to acknowledge the job that John Wolyniec has done with the USL Pro team, Vadim [Kirillov] and Ibrahim [Sekagya], the job those guys have spent a lot of time with us and our team, and our training and our team, and we’ve tried to implement the type of play and style we want at all levels…the best part is I still think even with a bunch of different players on the field and some young kids on the field, it looked like us.”
Marsch said of his familiarity with the players he sent out there, “I’m very aware of all of these players. I watch all of their games, they participate in the first team training a lot, they always hold up when they come into our training sessions, and I think they’ve done well. I told them after the game that it was good for them to see them step on the field with belief and confidence in themselves and to play for each other, and not be phased. I think this is important for the continued process of what our club is becoming.”
Mourinho said of his team in his own unique manner, “You are speaking with the manager of the best team in England. We don’t have fragilities. We are a top team, we have top players. We started training six days ago. We did 11 training sessions in six days, we don’t need other players. We trust these players, these players are good.”
Mourinho said of goals for his team, “We want to win the first match. After that we’ll go match by match, competition by competition. When we play in the Premier League, we want to win the Premier League. When the Champions League comes, we want to win the group phase to be in the knockout stage. We go match after match, we don’t choose competitions.”
Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis on being an older guy in the lineup with this group: “I’ve played with a lot of those guys already this year with the USL team. They are a great group of guys and I was really looking forward to it. I know that maybe that it wasn’t the top team because we had a lot of them play in the Open Cup game yesterday but we still believed in each other and the group. Jesse believed in us. I was really looking forward to getting on the field and working hard with those guys and trying our best against a really good team.”
Davis said of the scoreline, “I don’t know how many people thought that, but like I said we believed in our group. I don’t know if you guys could tell but we stuck to our system and we did not just sit in. We tried to give them a game and that worked in our favor. Unbelievable night. I really proud of the group.”
Davis said of the “awe” factor of playing a big club, “I think from the opening whistle, we had a little more space than we anticipated. Jesse told us that, that was going to happen and we were going to be able to play.”
Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams said of playing against Chelsea as a 16-year old, “It is a lot to take in. Playing against the champions, you get thinking about that a lot, but you can’t really let it affect you. We’re all on the same field, but we’ve all got a job to do and I did my job and luckily I scored a goal as well so it was pretty amazing.”
On what he was thinking during the game, Adams said, “It wasn’t all the main first team guys as usual, so they had confidence to put us in the game and we did our job, that’s all I can say.”
Adams on if he was surprised they hung around in the match: “I wasn’t. We all played as hard as we possibly could, we made it tougher on them at times as well, so as long as you’re making it tough on guys like that it’s hard to score and that’s what we did.”
Adams said of when he thought they had a chance to win, “I think from the beginning. Jesse [Marsch] told us at the beginning of the game that it’ll open up, you’ll have times to play, you’ll have opportunities like that, we took our opportunities that came really, and we all have a system, and a philosophy that he put in our heads, a high-press, high-attacking energy mindset and we all stuck to the game plan and it ending up working out so tons of respect to him.”