(Bradley Wright-Phillips – Photo by Mike Lawrence)
The Red Bulls, led by two goals and an assist from Bradley Wright-Phillips, destroyed DC United 3-0 on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena.
The win pulls the Red Bulls within two points of DC for the top spot in the MLS Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls improved to 12-7-6 with 42 points, while DC dropped to 13-10-5 and stay at 44 points.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch said of the team’s performance, “The last 10-15 minutes weren’t great but overall it was a very good performance. We set the tone right from the start. I thought we played at a very fast pace and our goal is to always try and make the game fast and overwhelm teams.”
Wright-Phillips said of the performance, “I feel like we are a very difficult team to play at the Red Bull Arena, and playing D.C. obviously makes it an even bigger occasion. I think we showed up today.”
Marsch said on the topic of this being a statement game, “I understand why you say that but it’s one game. It’s a good game and I think it’s something that if we can bottle it in our heads, this mentality and the commitment that we had on the field and the way that we want to play, that’s good. It was another step forward. There’s a lot to play for at this moment and if we stop for a second then we could slip so we’re going to keep our pedal on the floor.”
Mike Grella said of the team’s play, “From start to finish I thought we were very good. Not just in our pressure and our attitude and our mentality, but I thought we were very good with the ball tonight which is good to see. I think we enjoyed this game as well. We knew what was at stake and we took care of business.”
The Red Bulls had high-quality chances from the very first minutes of the games. A turning point came in the 7th minute when DC defender Steve Birnbaum was given a yellow card for a nasty challenge on Wright-Phillips.
The Red Bulls got big chances in the 15th minute, when Mike Grella took the ball from DC’s Marcus Halsti at midfield and drove in for a quality chance, and in the 29th minute when Sacha Kljestan headed one off the post.
In the 33rd minute, Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence picked off a DC pass at midfield, got it to Wright-Phillips, who took it a bit down the left side, and found Lloyd Sam at the center of the top of the box, and he drilled it to make it 1-0 Red Bulls.
Wright-Phillips said of this goal, “It was a great ball. I didn’t have to do much. I really just had to make decent connection. I saw Mike coming in, he didn’t look and I was just hoping he played it into that area because that was the nearest place I could get to. It was a great ball I just had to make decent connection.”
In the 42nd, Grella caught up to a ball along the baseline on the right side of the field, corralled it and fired across to Wright-Phillips coming down the center of the crease and Wright-Phillips launched a rocket to the top right corner of the net to make it 2-0 Red Bulls.
In the first half, the Red Bulls outshot DC 15-2, with 6 shots coming on target and 13 from inside the box. It was total domination, and it would only continue into the second half.
The Red Bulls kept pounding the net, and they broke through for their third goal of the night in the 64th minute. Kljestan got the ball near midfield on the right side and sent it ahead to Wright-Phillips, who buried it to make it 3-0 Red Bulls. It was Wright-Phillips’ second goal of the night and 13th of the season.
Marsch said of Wright-Phillips’ performance, “When Bradley drew the yellow card early in the game on [Steve] Birnbaum, he was injured. His toe was bothering for the rest of the game. To get two goals and an assist while you’re limping around on the field is a big accomplishment. He’s dynamic. I think he’s shown what a complete player he is. I would argue that he’s been much better this year than he was last year.”
Though DC registered 7 shots in the second half, in contrast to 9 for the Red Bulls, they did not have one tough chance the whole game. That is quite a statement by the Red Bulls’ defense that they did not give DC a sniff of the net.
After the game ended, Marsch shook hands with DC Head Coach Ben Olson. When Marsch turned to his left to go to the middle of the field, Dixon grabbed Marsch’s arm and started to confront him. Marsch pointed at Dixon to get away from him as he went to greet the referees and his players at the center of the field. Dixon appeared to be shadowing Marsch the whole time, and Marsch was led back to the sideline by a security guard for a postgame interview with FOX Sports.
On what went on with Dixon, Marsch said afterwards, “Just ‘good game’ and ‘we’ll see you soon.'”
This was a nice bounce-back game for the Red Bulls after a tough loss on the road to the Chicago Fire. Marsch said of this, “I just think that the guys knew this was a big game. They were ready to give everything they had. Playing D.C. early on in the year made us better. We respect the team that they are. Playing games against New York City and understanding the spotlight’s on in a big way – how to handle those games – has made us better. We know what these big games are like; we’re more prepared and ready to perform.”
Kljestan said of bouncing back from the Chicago loss, “I think we put our foot on the gas pedal and went out to get them from the first minute. I think we created a ton of chances, probably had the most dominating performance we’ve had this season so it felt really good, but I think the key was just good mentality, stuck to our game plan and really put them under pressure.”
On the mood after the loss to Chicago, Kljestan said, “We had a big sense of disappointment for sure and Jesse [Marsch] said right after the game that we’re going to come back against D.C., we’re going to get a win at home and we’re going to forget about Wednesday. We had our foot on the gas pedal and we started everything really well and continued all game…now we have a chance for revenge against Chicago in the next game and we have a little break to recharge the batteries as well and we’ve caught up to D.C. a little bit as well so overall it was a very good match.”
On if this was his best game of the season, Kljestan said, “I felt really good, I felt from the first minute I had a ton of confidence. I found the ball, I kept finding a lot of good spots on the field and my teammates found me. I was so disappointed at halftime not to have a goal in the first half, I felt like every chance I had [Bill] Hamid had a really good save or someone stepped in front and blocked it.”
Lloyd Sam said of the Red Bulls’ success in big games, “Yeah, I mean, we have the right mentality going into these games. You can look at the results and see that we have the right mindset.”
Sam has five goals in eight career games against DC. He said of this, “I was actually aware of that before the game. My brother said that to me before our last game against them and I scored in that one, too. I was just thinking that if I was going to get a chance that I was going to be selfish and take it.”