New York Pleased Following Gritty Victory at Red Bull Arena
It took longer that anyone expected, but the New York Red Bulls are finally in the win column thanks to Wednesday's 2-1 defeat of the visiting Philadelphia Union.
"Wild," Petke said of the game afterwards. "First half was like a street game - back and forth - which was suffocating at times and frustrating at others. It was good, at the end of the day we don't like to make things easy. Going up 2-0 then the red card, but listen, we got a result; feels like my first one because it is this year. It's a good feeling, now we'll go back and look at it again, and there are always things to correct, but overall we are very happy we got that under our belt."
Neither side could get anything going in the final third in the first half, but it didn't take long for the Red Bulls to open the scoring following the break.
In the 57th minute, Eric Alexander - playing on the left side of the midfield - worked a give-and-go with left back Roy Miller, who took the ball towards the endline before calmly passing the ball back to an unmarked Thierry Henry near the penalty spot. The team captain easily tapped the ball in for the 1-0 lead.
"There's a reason why he is called the designated player, and there's a reason why he played with all those teams he's played on, the level," Petke said of his star forward. "Big player's come up at big times. He took that goal very well and set it up, and set the tone for us, then, from that point on and we got the other one, as well. He's a big player and he got the big goal."
Ten minutes later, Alexander got to endline himself before lifting a pass across the box where Lloyd Sam was able to edge out teammate Tim Cahill to head in New York's second goal.
"Listen, the way I feel about Eric, last year he came he was a guy that was used 30-40% of the time with previous teams," Petke said of Alexander. "Everybody liked him around the league, but there was just something. And he proved last year, he got confidence and for me coming back from the national team this year, in preseason, you saw another step of confidence with him.
"I love Eric with the ball this season, I do. I think he is an intelligent player, I think he needs a couple of more things to make that jump. Perhaps, it's a bit of confidence as well. He has proven that he could be almost like a Tim Cahill last year, where you can play him at two or three different positions. Like I said, tonight, it wasn't something that Jonny (Steele) did wrong, it was more that the way the team we were playing in Philly, with their central and outside guys come in and match them up, and I felt more confident with Eric coming into the middle with the ball at his feet.
Sam's goal gave the Red Bulls a two-goal lead for the first time all season. And it proved necessary later when New York went down a man after defender Ibrahim Sekagya was sent off for an intentional handball, and the Union's Sebastien Le Toux converted the unsuing penalty kick.
"Let's be honest here, we are seven games in and we're without a win, but only two losses though," Petke said of the game-winning goal. "So, obviously there is some tension within myself. I wouldn't call it outright pressure, but this is New York and this is the Red Bulls. Everyone who has been around this team long enough knows the pressure I put on myself. So, yeah, you saw a lot of relief after that second goal went in because the way things have been going year a one-goal lead is not good enough, and as you saw what happened with the penalty kick. So yeah, relief. It's a bit of a monkey off the back. Last year we had a slow start but this year it has dragged on a couple games more."
The Red Bulls now have the weekend off before hosting the Houston Dynamo next Wednesday, April 23 at Red Bull Arena.