(Mike Grella and Bradley Wright-Phillips on Sunday – Mike Lawrence / Sportsday Wire)
The New York Red Bulls raised the banner for last year’s Supporters’ Shield before their home opener on Sunday afternoon, and their defense of that title began with a 2-0 defeat to Toronto FC.
The Red Bulls were shutout, something that only happened twice last season, but it was not for lack of trying.
They controlled possession 67.3 to 32.7 percent in the first half, but only produced seven shots and just one on target.
The best chance the Red Bulls had in the first half came in the 26th minute on a Lloyd Sam rocket from the top of the crease on the right side that just missed the left corner of the net.
Toronto’s only shot on target in the first was from Sebastian Giovinco, who launched it from the center line and Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles had to make a save on it in the 35th minute.
The second half started out tepidly, but the Red Bulls battled and put some pressure on in the 66th minute, when Bradley Wright-Phillips shot one of the right side of the net. Mike Grella was nearby and could have made a play on it as well.
The game remained scoreless until the 81st minute when Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence took down Tsubasa Endoh from behind in the box going for a pass from Giovinco.
Toronto was awarded a penalty kick, which was taken by Giovinco. Robles guessed correctly that Giovinco would shoot to the left (Robles’ right), but he couldn’t snatch it. Toronto took a 1-0 lead.
Lawrence said of the penalty, “For the penalty, I do not know what to say; we were both going in and I think he was going down before it. I slid in and it went past a couple seconds and the referee blew the whistle trying to make up his mind about whether it was or was not a penalty. He gave a call and it was just a bit unfortunate. I haven’t watched the replay yet to really say yes or no but I think it’s just an unfortunate loss and it’s in the past right now and all we can do is go back to training and figure out what we can do for the next game.”
Robles said of the penalty kick, “Well, I mean, Giovinco played a great ball. I believe he’s the one that played it in with his left foot, made a streaking run. From that angle, it’s always tough for a defender. Kemar (Lawrence) did his best to get back and hustle.
“As far as the way I saw it, it looked like a tough call. But when we watch the video maybe it’s going to be a little more clear. Regardless of the situation, we have to be aware not only what’s going on behind us and the runs are coming in from the weak side, but we got to see today why Giovinco was last year’s MVP…Whenever he got a touch, it looked like he was going to do something dangerous.”
Toronto did not allow the Red Bulls to get a quality chance the rest of the way, and they put it away in the 91st minute when Marco Delgado came in down the right side and scored to make it 2-0.
Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch was asked if the only negative was the penalty kick they surrendered, and he said, “Yeah. I mean, with the first game of the season, you know we’re not going to be our sharpest, so we had certain moments where normally you’d see us either create better chances out of certain plays or finish plays off and we didn’t quite do it. I mean, I’m not discouraged by that. I knew that today, wasn’t going to be our sharpest day just because it’s the start of the year.
“But we also, you know, I guess the disappointment part from our end is we knew what this game was going to look like and we knew it was important to execute our game plan, versus theirs and in the end they came in with a game plan and executed better than we did and they wind up winning. So congratulations to Toronto, and you know, we just have to be a little but sharper at moments and understand this is often what games look like when we play here.”
Marsch said of it being frustrating to win the possession battle and not score, “Yeah, like I said, it’s an easy talking point for the game because normally you feel like the chance that Brad (Wright-Phillips) has, the chance that Mike (Grella) has, the chance that Lloyd (Sam) has, those wind up going in. But they don’t tonight, and that’s going to happen occasionally. So I’m not overly concerned about that.
“I still thought there were a lot of really good moments and I thought we had a lot of good moments where we managed the game well, and then you have two or three plays. Literally in the whole game, there are two or three plays that get away from us, and two of them lead to goals. So this is going to happen sometimes. We need to, again, be better in those moments. But overall, I thought there was a lot of good,” said Marsch.
Robles said of the Red Bulls controlling play, but Toronto capitalizing, “So in a game like today where we had possession and they were doing their best to break them down and we were playing the counter, I thought for the most part we’d eliminate their opportunities, but the few opportunities they had were able to capitalize on a huge part because of the quality of Giovinco.”
Marsch said of defender Gideon Baah’s debut, “I thought he was very good. Clearly on the ball he was fantastic. I think him and Ronald (Zubar) cut out a lot of plays and make it very hard on Giovinco. He didn’t touch the ball much, but every time he does, it’s dangerous. It’s not an easy task on the day. It was good. I think he fit into the team successfully. So, yeah, that was a big positive. Him and Ronald both were bit positives on the day. I actually thought then the way that Dax (McCarty) and Felipe controlled the mid field for a lot, won a lot of balls, tried to set up plays up ahead of them. Toronto made things tight and we weren’t sharp enough at creating concrete advantages and finishing the ones we had off.”
Gideon Baah said of his MLS debut, “I think it’s a good start, especially for me. I loved everything about my debut today. It’s just unfortunate that we lost. Congratulations to Toronto FC. I think they did a good job and it’s just unfortunate that we lost.”
Baah said of his partnership with Zubar, “I think he’s my teacher on the field. I have to listen to Jesse (Marsch) but when the crowd gets so loud, there’s nothing you can hear from the coaches and the technical (staff) so he’s the one I listen to. (He has) a lot of experience and I think today we did a good job. We tried to keep a clean but unfortunately we didn’t. I think this season, it’s going to be a good partnership between us.”
Red Bulls Captain midfielder Dax McCarty said of the game, “Yeah, it was a tough game. We weren’t very sharp, they sat in and made it hard for us to break them down and tried to hit us on the counter-attack and it was effective. We couldn’t figure it out, and (made) a couple mistakes and it leads to goals.”