(Red Bulls Anthony Wallace (right) and Mike Grella celebrate – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
The Red Bulls shut out Toronto FC, 3-0, on Saturday night to extend their unbeaten streak to five games and goaltender Luis Robles set the franchise shutout record.
Robles got the shutout to set the MetroStars/Red Bulls record for clean sheets with 26, passing Tony Meola. It was his second-straight shutout, with the first coming Sunday against NYC FC, and his seventh of the season.
Robles said of passing Meola for the franchise shutout record, “I think it’s pretty cool cause growing up, I looked up to Tony. He was such an icon on that ’94 World Cup team, and of course playing for the MetroStars and then the Red Bulls, he’s an icon in this area and continues to be very involved in soccer. He’s been involved with my career here at Red Bull, and I only have positive things to say about Tony and I know he was honored last game so for him to be there that was special and as soon as the week starts he’ll probably send me a text saying, ‘congratulations.’ He’s such a class act and a great role model.”
The Red Bulls improved to 11-6-6, with 39 points. They are within five points of D.C. United for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They play each other at Red Bull Arena on August 30th with possibly first place on the line.
Robles said of the team’s play over the unbeaten streak, “I think with each and every performance, we continue to grow in confidence-we’re growing in cohesion as well. Our biggest strength we said from the beginning is our locker room. Guys believe in each other, guys are willing to work for each other…from the very beginning to the very end, we’re working hard for each other.”
The Red Bulls broke through in the 27th minute, when Bradley Wright-Phillips scored on a feed from Mike Grella to give them a 1-0 lead. The key to the play came when Grella spun himself around a defender at the circle at the top of the box and got it to Wright-Phillips coming down the right side, and BWP took it into the center of the crease before striking it in.
One thing that has become common for this Red Bulls team is the amount of guys that contribute on any given night and it was Anthony Wallace was the one that stepped up in this one.
In the 65th minute, Conor Lade passed one to Sacha Kljestan, who took it within ten yards of the box, and dropped it off to Wallace, a defender, coming down the left side. Wallace fired a rocket that beat Toronto goalie Joseph Bendik to make it 2-0 Red Bulls.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of getting goals from many players on the team and how valuable this one was from Wallace, “I am happy for Anthony, every time we have called on him he has stepped up and done the job. It was important for us to get the goal, getting the 2-0 lead was vital because at 1-0 they could still put up a play at any moment. All of these guys have just stepped in and done the job.”
On Wallace’s impact on the defense, Marsch said, “I think what has been the best thing for me about Anthony is that when he has been called on and when he has stepped on the field he has confidence and believes in himself. I think he has established himself with his teammates so his teammates believe in him. It is not always easy when you play a backup role at times to keep yourself mentally and physically sharp so it is a big credit to him.”
Red Bulls captain midfielder Dax McCarty said of the depth of the roster, “Yeah, the depth is so important and so impressive. You have injuries, you have suspensions, you have call ups, you need to have a full roster of players to come in and I think that speaks volumes to our system, and to the way we want to play. We have a system that every player needs to know how to play in, and once they come in, it’s a seamless transition.”
The Red Bulls sealed the win in the 93rd minute when newcomer Gonzalo Veron, their Argentine import, scored to make it 3-0. Veron put back in the rebound off a Bradley Wright-Phillip shot.
Marsch said of Veron’s first goal, “Obviously it was good for him to get a goal and feel like he is contributing and get himself going. I thought his overall impact on the game was good he put defenders on their heels and you can see that some of his explosiveness will lead to him being dangerous and us creating chances.”
Veron is blending into the rotation well with fellow newcomer Sean Wright-Phillips, along with Mike Grella. Marsch said of this, “I think what is most important is that all of those guys understand that whether they are used from the start of from the bench that they are big players on the team and that they accept whatever role is given to them on the day. Having a deep, aggressive and talented team is certainly going to be a good thing for us and my job is to keep them motivated to do their job the way we know they can.”
A big part of the game was how the Red Bulls shut down Toronto’s big scorer Sebastian Giovinco, barely allowing him to get any openings. Two instances of this were in the 37th minute, when Karl Ouimette was right on Giovinco after he received a long pass and Ouimette stole it from him; and in the 64th minute, when Giovinco was in alone on the right side and ran into five Red Bulls defenders. This was a lot different than the last time he was in the New York area, when he had a hat trick against NYC FC on July 12th.
Marsch said of how proud he is of Matt Miazga and Karl Ouimette for covering Sebastian Giovinco, “We showed a lot of video on Giovinco, we felt that he was a major percentage of the job tonight. Luis made a great play in the box that was aggressive, confident and the right play. Our backs stood him up for the most part but he was still dangerous at times for the most part. We knew that his and Jozy, their work rate isn’t the best so we knew that we could find the game a little bit.”
Miazga said of containing Giovinco, “Yeah he’s obviously a great player, he’s very dangerous on the ball. I could tell when he was on the field, his little movements are very tricky, I had to be aware at all times and luckily he didn’t get many chances so I’m happy about that. Luis made some big saves, and overall I thought the team played well.”
McCarty said of defending Giovinco, “It’s a team effort. Obviously it’s not a job for just one player. So I thought as a team we did really well trying to figure out where he was on the field at all times on the field, and when he did get the ball, obviously our game plan was to double team him and make sure he didn’t have a lot of space. He had one or two moments where he was dangerous. You’re never going to contain a guy like that for the entire game but I thought defensively we were very good.”
McCarty said of shutting down big-name players, “I don’t think Giovinco and Jozy [Altidore] had too many touches tonight, and that’s a credit to our forwards and our wide midfielders and our midfield to try and win the ball higher up the field and if we didn’t do that, our defenders were there to cover for us. There were a few shaky moments in the back, but that’s going to happen when you have great players you’re playing against…overall, truly good performance on the defensive side of the ball and congrats to Luis (Robles) on setting the record for shutouts-truly impressive for him.”
Marsch said of what kind of message this win sends to the league, “I am not too focused on what kind of message it sends to the league. There is an awareness that we have been a good team this year so it is more about making sure that every day we honor what we are trying to do and honor our process and to make sure that in all ways we step on the field and get better.”
Marsch said of the physicality of the game especially in the first half, “We wanted it, especially when Giovinco was away from the goal and we were hard on him. We didn’t want him to find a rhythm and we wanted to limit his touches. Jozy is tricky because he likes contact, so as much as you want to be physical with him, you have to also play a little game so he doesn’t know where the defenders are.”
Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga had some verbal altercations during this one, and Marsch said of them, “No I think that is shows he has confidence and he is going to make sure that as a center back he won’t back down against big players and take care of business. With all these moments we want to be a competitive team, aggressive, physical but we don’t want to cross the line. We want to have an edge,that is part of being a successful team.”
Miazga said of the chippiness of the game, “It was chippy. That’s part of the game. There was a lot of emotion. Guys are going to talk smack, that’s part of the game. It is what it is. That’s the past, we won the game, and I look forward to Chicago in ten days.”
Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said of his performance and the offense heating up, “The last few games we have been doing well. I think we are most proud of the shutouts, the past couple of games we kept some very good offenses off the board. We really limited their chances, stuck to the game plan and kept them under pressure. Personally I haven’t been great in the past three games, I know that, I am feeling a little fatigued it has been 15 straight months of playing without a vacation. Jesse is doing his best to limit limiting my training and getting as much rest as but what is most important is getting three points.”