CHESTER, Pa. – The wait for Open Cup glory continues.
Advancing to the round of 16, the Red Bulls had their cup run cut short at the hands of the Philadelphia Union for the second time in as many seasons.
Despite a first half opener by Mike Grella, New York found themselves chasing the game in the second half after a Chris Pontius brace.
Here are my three takeaways fro Wednesday night’s match.
Tale of Two Halves
Looking to exact some revenge on their I-95 foes, the Red Bulls arrived at Talen Energy Stadium and dictated the game straight from the opening whistle.
Enjoy the majority of possession, New York carved out several high-percentage chances for the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Grella, leaving the Union scrambling to cover.
The Long Island native would strike in the 17th minute to stake New York to the early lead, and the pressure didn’t relent from there. At the break, the Red Bulls had outshot Philly by a staggering 14 to 1 margin.
But as the second half kicked off, the script was flipped on its head.
“It was a case of mentality and not being up for the challenge in the second half and thinking that because the first half was totally on our terms that the second half was going to be easy,” head coach Jesse Marsch said after the match. “We knew Philly, I tried to inform our team that in the second half Philly was going to pick it up, that they had to, that they were going to get laid into by their coach because you got they got their butts whooped in the first half and then they came out and whooped our butts in the second half.”
It seemed as if two different sides emerged from the locker room after the break as the Union found themselves level just 10 minutes into the second half. The go-ahead goal wasn’t far behind, leaving New York to desperately chase an equalizer that was not in the cards.
“We should have finished off this game in the first half,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan admitted. “It was really lopsided when we were attacking and we could have put the game away. Then in the second half I think we were too naive. We didn’t really stick to our game plan and we lost too many balls in the midfield that really gave them some confidence to hit us on the counter and create some chances. From then on, we couldn’t keep them out. It was a really poor performance in the second half after a really good first half.”
Meara Makes His Return
After signing with the Red Bulls in 2012, Ryan Meara was well on his way.
The Yonkers product surprised MLS fans everywhere with his stellar play over the course of his rookie campaign, leading to some international attention for the former Fordham goalkeeper.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed a promising season for a young Meara, as Luis Robles filled the void for New York. Now, back with the Red Bulls after spending 2015 away on loan, Meara once again found himself backstopping the Red Bulls in an important fixture.
“It's always good to be out there with the guys, especially in a big game like this against a rival,” he told NewYorkRedBulls.com
Meara has been turning in stellar performances for NYRBII all season long, but Wednesday night marked his long-awaited return to the first team. Prior to that, Meara was last started on October 22, 2014 in New York's final CONCACAF Champions League against the Montreal Impact.
Derby Days: Part Deux
Their Open Cup run may be over, but the Red Bulls will have to get ready for another crucial matchup just days away.
On Sunday afternoon, the team will head back to the Bronx to take on New York City FC after dispatching their rivals 7-0 in their first matchup of 2016.
The Red Bulls are a perfect 4-0-0 against their crosstown rivals all-time.
“We’re going to have to gather ourselves physically and get ready for a big game on Sunday,” Marsch added. “It's a Sunday noon game too, so the turnaround is quick. Going to have to evaluate where guys are at physically and figure out to put out a good team on the field.”
The task will certainly be a difficult one as the Red Bulls are amidst one of the most congested and physically demanding parts of their schedule. But if there’s one game that the guys will have no issue getting up for, it’s NYCFC.
“It’s always good to play big games after a very disappointing loss,” Kljestan said. “Especially after getting knocked out of the cup, to have a big derby game against NYCFC to get us back in the thick of things in MLS will be a good thing for us. We’ll be up for it.”
The Open Cup ouster has certainly changed the mood in the camp, but Grella was quick to point out that Sunday’s match brings about a great opportunity to turn it all around.
“We can't get too low on this and we have to correct the problem as quickly as possible because we have a big game Sunday,” he said. “We still have very important things to play for, we still can build something great this season and I truly believe in that. But for sure we'll be mentally and physically prepared for that game on Sunday. And hopefully stronger, learning from these past few games where we have given away leads.”