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The Kings of New York (U.S. Open Cup recap)

Contrary to a famous quote uttered by a New York sporting legend, Yogi Berra, when the New York Red Bulls squared off against the New York Cosmos in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday night, it was far from a case of déjà vu all over again.

Sal Zizzo scored his first goal in a Red Bulls uniform in the fifth minute to start a four-goal flurry as the Red Bulls avenged being eliminated by the Cosmos in last year’s tournament with a 4-1 rout to advance to the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. The Red Bulls will take on the Philadelphia Union in the quarterfinals, with the date and the site yet to be determined.

Despite the importance of extending their winning streak in all competitions (which now stands at three) and returning to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals (first time since 2011), this was, for the Red Bulls, mostly about avenging their embarrassing 3-0 defeat to the Cosmos in the Round of 32 last season at Hofstra University in the same competition.

Last season’s game saw the NASL’s Cosmos score first in the seventh minute, an early sucker punch that the Red Bulls, who were playing without most of their first-team players that night, never recovered from. Zizzo provided the early lightning for the Red Bulls this time around, heading in a cross from Lloyd Sam in the fifth minute for another early Red Bulls’ goal at Red Bull Arena. Unlike last season, the team that went down was able to respond, as Lucky Mkosama was able to finish off a odd-man attack by the Cosmos by slotting home past Luis Robles near the top of the six-yard box to level the score in the 16th minute.

Destined to go into the half all square, the Red Bulls regained the lead on Anatole Abang’s header off a Sacha Kljestan corner in the 42nd minute, his third goal in five games. The entertaining half, which saw both sides create some good chances, saw the Red Bulls hold a 2-1 edge.

And just like the win over fellow Big Apple rival NYCFC last Sunday, the Red Bulls scored an early goal in the second half to help put the game out of reach. Kljestan converted from the penalty spot in the 54th minute for a 3-1 advantage, easing any nerves about the outcome of the contest. Cosmos forward and soccer legend Raúl came on as a second-half substitute and almost halved the lead on a header that hit off the crossbar in the 63rd minute. Mkosama then followed up immediately with a rebound shot that hit off the foot of the post and, somehow, the Red Bulls maintained their two-goal cushion.

Mike Grella, who also came on as a substitute, completed a great individual move inside of the box with a right-footed blast across Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to give the Red Bulls their fourth tally in the 90th minute.

This was the Red Bulls’ fifth game in a span of 15 days, with the last three ending up in victories for a team that was winless in five of their last six games prior to that. It’s back to MLS action for the Red Bulls on the Fourth of July, as they travel to the Buckeye State to take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.


[Cover photo (Sal Zizzo & Sacha Kljestan) courtesy of mlssoccer.com]

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