(Ronald Zubar got his first goal in MLS action this season – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said the Red Bulls would have a tough time in Chicago against the Fire on Wednesday night despite despite the vast difference in their records. The Fire proved him right, as they beat the Red Bulls 3-2 on on a late goal.
This broke a six-game unbeaten streak for the Red Bulls, and their record falls to 11-6-7, with 39 points. They are in second place in the MLS Eastern Conference, just five points behind DC United with three games in hand. They face DC on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, renewing one of their fiercest rivalries, going back to the founding of the league in 1996.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of facing DC United next, “That’s what I told the group, that right now all our focus has to go to DC as frustrating and hard as this loss is, if we can rebound and come back home and get three points against DC. We’ll forget about this game pretty quickly. Right now all the focus is about going back home and getting ready for a really, really big game against DC.”
With the win, the Chicago Fire improved to 7-5-13, with 26 points, now just two points behind Montreal, NYC FC, and Orlando City for the final playoff spot.
The Red Bulls opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Sacha Kljestan converted a penalty kick. New York was awarded a penalty after Matt Miazga was taken down on a corner kick. Kljestan stepped up and got a low shot past Chicago goalie Sean Johnson, who tried to dive for it.
Chicago pulled level in the 22nd minute when forward Gilberto was able to spring Kennedy Igboananike through the back line. Igboananike ran onto the ball and was able to beat Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles low inside the left post.
Patrick Nyarko put Chicago ahead just before the half. Nyarko received the ball in the penalty area, turned and fired a shot back across goal and out of the reach of Robles.
In the 50th minute, the Red Bulls used some trickery to even it up at 2. Kljestan was ready to take a corner kick, but Lloyd Sam touched it in the corner arc first. This made it an active ball when Kljestan touched it, allowing him to dribble it towards the net instead of having to kick it.
This caught Chicago by surprise, and Kljestan fired a pass that stayed on the grass across the box to Ronald Zubar, who drilled it through traffic to tie it at 2.
This was Zubar’s first goal in MLS competition this season, with his other goal coming in US Open Cup play against the Atlanta Silverbacks on June 16th.
Marsch said of putting Zubar into the starting lineup, “That’s a real positive. I think getting Ronald going 90 minutes, I thought he had a very good game, and as the game went on he got better and better. Obviously scored an important goal for us so that was a big positive on the night for sure.”
Kljestan said of Zubar getting in a full 90 minutes, “Yes, it was good to get him back on the field. Ronald’s worked so hard to come back from a couple of injuries. He’s had a pretty unlucky season so far. We feel like he’s a big part of the team. So 90 minutes is definitely good for him and good for the future. Hopefully he can get on a roll now and really help the team going down the stretch.”
The Fire responded in the 73rd minute. There was a long pass from midfield to David Accam that caught the Red Bulls’ defense by surprise. Accam came down the left side and found Kennedy Igboananike in the center of the box alone, and he drilled it past Robles for his second goal of the night to make it 3-2 Chicago.
The Red Bulls had their chances in the final minutes, as they drew a couple of corner kicks, but Bradley Wright-Phillips could not connect to tie it.
Marsch said of the match, “You have to give a lot of credit to Chicago because they played with urgency and desperation and they put a lot into it. They played quite well. Overall the game was fast and I thought it was a high level game and in the end, we weren’t quite sharp enough and weren’t quite good enough and a lot of that has to go to the game that Chicago put us in. You know when you go on the road that it’s never easy and it proved to be the case in this game. We have to learn from it and know that next time that our last game of the year is here again. The next time we come here we have to be up for the task a little bit more than we were tonight, and make sure we still know how to manage getting results on the road.”
Kljestan said of the match, “Yeah, it’s a disappointing result. We started out pretty well and then we let the game get away from us a little bit. In the end, a couple turnovers and defensive mistakes cost us the game. We analyze a little bit, look over it, and quickly turn our attention to Sunday.”
On his goal and assist, Kljestan said, “Yes, the goal was a penalty kick. Normal stuff, I think it was Matt [Miazga] who got dragged down in the box. I think it was a pretty clear penalty. I stood up there and put it in the corner. On the assist, it was a play that just kind of came to me. Lloyd had touched the ball and figured I could catch the defense off guard and bring it in, and fortunately Zubar was in the right place in the right time and put it in the corner.”
Kljestan said of what he saw from Chicago, “They put a lot of effort into the game tonight. You could totally tell they’re a team with their backs’ against the wall. They needed a result, they threw a lot of people forward. It’s a team with a lot of individual qualities and not a lot of plays strung together but a lot of one on one plays where they maybe got the better of us. When we play them next time, we have to be better prepared.”
On facing off against DC United at home on Sunday, Kljestan said, “We have a big game against DC at home. We take three points in that game we’ll forget about this one and move on and keep moving up in the standings.”