HARRISON, NJ – Whether it’s adjusting to a recent coaching change or playing a full 90 minutes in a steady downpour, there seems to be almost nothing that can slow down the New York Red Bulls as they continue their ascent toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Daniel Royer and Bradley Wright-Phillips livened up what was a slog of a soccer match in the first half by scoring second-half goals as the Red Bulls defeated the New England Revolution 2-0 inside a rainy Red Bull Arena on Saturday night, the team’s fifth win in its last six contests in league play.
New York especially has put the clamps on its opponents at Red Bull Arena, losing only one of its 10 contests at home in MLS play all season while coming away with wins on eight occasions.
“We found a way,” said Wright-Phillips, who scored his 99th goal with the team, matching his jersey number. “At home we always manage to, well most of the time, find a way.”
Finding the way to victory tonight was made much more difficult by the wet and slippery conditions, as the Red Bulls were only able to manage one shot in the first 45 minutes – an Aaron Long header that went off the crossbar and out of play in the 2nd minute off of a corner kick. In contrast, the Revolution were on the front foot and carried more of the play in the first half, producing six shots and putting the Red Bulls’ backline under pressure more consistently.
“The first half was a little bit of a bounce back and forth,” said Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas, in his third game in charge of the squad after the departure of Jesse Marsch to Bundesliga club RB Leipzig earlier in the month. “Just to stay with it is the reminder and to not get frustrated and to keep being us and doing the things that make us good.”
The breakthrough for New York came in the 69th minute off of a set piece, as Marc Rzatkowski’s delivery into the box sailed over the head of New England goalkeeper Matt Turner and fell to Royer, who put the ball in the back of the net at the far post. Royer believed the commitment to the team’s game plan going into the second half allowed them to open up more space and create more chances.
“We can also be effective in set pieces,” Royer said. “And Marc [Rzatkowski} serves great set pieces. He always puts it in the dangerous spaces so we all know where to run.”
With the Revolution chasing the game to try and tie it up, the Red Bulls caught New England cold and doubled their lead. Midfielder Alejandro Romero Gamarra lofted a pass to Wright-Phillips, who sent a one-time header past Turner to the keeper’s near post for a 2-0 advantage.
A key to the improved play of the Red Bulls in the second half was the performance of holding midfielder Tyler Adams, who saw more of the ball in the second 45 minutes as Coach Armas placed him higher up in the midfield. Adams’ new role asked of him to feed the ball forward more and contain the midfield while opening up space on the flanks, and, on the team’s second goal, he was able to win possession of the ball that started the build-up to the scoring chance.
“Tyler [Adams] can play anywhere,” Wright-Phillips said. “Anywhere you put him, it’s going to be the same performance.”
New England’s best opportunity of the game came in the 36th minute, as midfielder Diego Fagundez eluded a challenge from Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence and found himself free down the right flank before sending an inch-perfect cross into the box for striker Teal Bunbury. However, Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles stepped up from his line to come through with a massive save on Bunbury from point-blank range to keep the game scoreless.
Outside of that opportunity for New England, New York’s defense was able to tighten things up at the back during the course of the game and stifle almost all of the Revolution’s advances toward goal.
“[The defense] really limited opportunities,” Robles said. “Hats off to our defenders, not only our defenders but defending starts all the way at top and the way that the guys were committed for 90 minutes was fantastic.”
A video review that reversed a penalty initially awarded to the Red Bulls in the 88th minute brought tension into the arena as it headed toward stoppage time, as a blocked Michael Murillo shot in the box was ruled to have been an intentional handball by defender Antonio Mlinar Delamea before its reversal.
New England has now lost three straight league games, the first three-game losing streak in a calendar year for the Revolution.