Autism awareness was obviously at the top of the list this evening. The added attraction of the returning former Red Bull captain Dax McCarty with division rival Chicago was something they were well aware of. But ultimately, when the evening was concluded, the Red Bulls were reminded that they are still a work in progress, but when you win during the process, it counts as progress.
This they did to the tune of a 2-1 win completing a three game sweep at home.
On a beautiful evening with a large and passionate crowd reverberating throughout Red Bull Park, the crisp and physical nature of the play resembled a playoff atmosphere. Chicago, winless on the road, came right at the Reds which familiar tactics that nearly got them scores if not for the indomitable Luis Robles, who saw cracks opening in the back four as they were without the injured Aurelien Collin and Connor Wade was a target throughout.
“They try to pull us from side to side. This is their tactic,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said, “They play up to Connor and try to win the aerial duels and pick up second balls or blindly switch the ball at all costs.”
The Reds however were able to overcome the tactics for the most part and at the end moments of the first half they struck. When Sacha Kljestan slotted a nice pass to Daniel Royer on the left inside the box and he in turn sent a pretty low cross that Bradley Wright-Phillips one touched for his fourth goal of the season.
“It’s a lot of work I’ve been doing with Kljestan trying to stay offside for most of the play then get onside at the right time,” Wright-Phillips explained.
The second half saw the Fire take command with experienced pros like former World Cup champion Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Solignac, Juninho, David Accam and of course Dax McCarty. complementing a unit that lacked talent and used grit to compete in the past.
“They have a lot of skill in their attackers and they have more quality in the field now,” said Kljestan. The return of the old captain, Dax versus the new captain, Sacha was going to be an intriguing matchup. “You can tell Dax brought his best,” Kljestan said, “He did very well to set up their goal. He made a difference but ultimately we prevailed.”
But for a few minutes there it looked shaky. Dax found the crack of light when he started a 360 spin, cut back halfway through to lose two defenders and found Nemanja Nikolic on the left who one touched it into the opposite corner beating Robles and breaking the 251 scoreless minute streak he had built on this homestand.
“I thought their midfield was quiet until Dax made that play,” Marsch added, “We did a pretty good job of winning that battle. You know Dax is waiting for that moment. Good for him.”
The Red Bulls were even and they looked a bit gassed as the Fire grabbed momentum. But you can’t overlook the energy a full house of supporters can give you. Robles acknowledged that support group before the start of the game by waving their scarf and placing it near his goal.
“You could really feel the energy on the field,” Robles said. When all things are equal, the decider often goes to who desires victory more and to a man the Red Bulls knew the mission. “We could have easily started to tremble a little and pack it in as sometimes happened in the past, but this group ended up getting the points.”
Dax had made his point and now it was time to see what the Red Bulls were made off. In the 71st minute a mistake by the Fire opened the door and Kemar Lawrence made them pay. Earlier in the game, Lawrence had an excellent opportunity and saw his shot go high and wide in frustration.
But when Damien Perrinelle pass deflected off a Fire defender and landed right to Kemar on the left wing, he knew what to do. He left-footed it straight past Jorge Bava to launch a major celebration of character. Jesse Marsch was not surprised. “He played a ball similiar to that in Atlanta and it ended up an own goal,” Marsch said, “The idea is when you play balls like that to make them threatening and also potentially balls that can go into the goal.”
The Red Bulls stand now with 16 points and a 5-3-1 record going into their next match on the road to play Sporting KC. “We got the result, three points can go a long way especially in the second half of the season,” Robles said, “It continues to show the maturation of this team.”
Comment: Luis Vazquez (@Cyberj2000 /twitter.com/Cyberj2000?s=03