It wasn’t the prettiest game, but it sure was eventful.
A physical, chippy match in Orlando saw both sides earn plenty of bookings (nine, to be exact), with the Lions finishing the match with just ten men.
In the end, a 1-1 draw saw Orlando City and New York split the points as Kevin Molino’s 67th minutes strike canceled out the first half opener from Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Here are my three takeaways from a feisty affair in Florida.
Road Draw Keeps RBNY Rolling
Sure, the Red Bulls would have loved to hold on to their early lead, but all things considered, a road point in a hostile environment is A-OK.
New York could have easily walked out of Camping World Stadium with all three points as a late Felipe strike had keeper Joe Bendik beaten, but an unlucky deflection off of Gonazlo Veron kept the score level.
Still, the Red Bulls expertly navigated their way through a difficult road fixture, as Orlando City welcomed back Antonio Nocerino and Kaka, both of whom missed out on their first meeting of the season two weeks prior. With the point, New York find themselves unbeaten in their last three matches.
“I think it’s a good result,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said after the match. “The environment is pretty hostile. The Orlando fans are great and they helped to put pressure on the referee and the other team, it’s what you want out of a home crowd. It’s a difficult team to play against at their place an they’re a very good team, so to come away at 1-1 is a fair result.”
Given their early lead, it was hard not to look back with some measure of regret. But all things considered, it was a positive performance and a solid result for the Red Bulls.
“Anytime you walk out of there with a point, it’s certainly a positive result, but still disappointed to concede that goal,” said captain Dax McCarty. “I thought we did well to get the first goal; great play by us. I feel like we could have done that a little bit more throughout the match, but Orlando did well to put more pressure on us than they did in New York. They’re a very good team, especially at home. To get out of here with a point is probably a fair result.”
Whether or not they left two points on the table is up for debate, but after a rocky start to the campaign, a string of positive results has the Red Bulls feeling confident as they look forward to yet another road fixture next Friday.
“It’s what we talked about before,” Bradley Wright-Phillips added. “We wanted to carry on this form. Wins mean nothing if we win then lose, so it’s nice to be on an unbeaten run. We’ll try to keep it going.”
Attack Starts Clicking
By his lofty standards, it’s been a slow start to the season for Bradley Wright-Phillips. Entering Friday’s match, the Englishman had notched just two goals on the year, both coming at home against Orlando.
Matching up with the Lions for the second time in as many weeks, BWP got back on form, notching yet another goal against the men in purple.
“It was the only thing I’d done tonight,” Wright-Phillips admitted. “I think their defenders played me well; it was hard to get any room. I’m just happy that went in, I was just trying to get it on target. Great ball in by Sacha, I just tried to find a corner.”
For his part, Kljestan has been even more impressive.
Asked to run the offense as the team’s #10 upon arriving in New York at the start of the 2015 season, Kljestan has thrived in the playmaking role. Perhaps not the prototypical “trequartista” that so often assumes the duty, Kljestan’s deft touch and superb vision has been on display as of late and was again on Friday night, assisting on the game’s lone goal.
“He’s been on fire lately, I just hope he keeps it up,” Wright-Phillips continued. “He finds those areas and turns, and when he does that, he’s dangerous.”
Bagging 14 assists a season ago, Kljestan now leads the league with six helpers through his first ten games of 2016.
“The play started with Sal Zizzo playing a great ball out of the back and into me between the lines,” Kljestan explained. “I had a peek over my back to see that there was no one behind me and that I had time and space to turn. Brad makes a great run; it’s the type of run he makes every day in practice. It was a real forward’s goal; he made a great run, I just put it in front of him and he did all the rest.”
Collin Revels in Orlando Return
Following his trade to the Red Bulls, defender Aurelien Collin made a rather quick return flight to central Florida.
Just days after arriving in New York, the Frenchman once again found himself on the pitch at the Citrus Bowl, only this time donning a new kit. With only a few days of training under his belt, Collin was thrown to the fire as head coach Jesse Marsch elected to place Collin in his starting XI. And while it wasn’t a shutout debut for the newcomer, Collin acquitted himself nicely along the Red Bulls’ backline.
“I thought it was a good performance from him,” McCarty said. “He was very tough in the air and he won his battles. After the early yellow card, he knew he had to be careful, but I thought he did well to recognize that he had to curb his physicality a little bit. For his first performance, to only concede one goal is a positive.”
It certainly wasn’t the easiest match to step into. Not only do the Lions possess a potent attack that would worry any MLS defense, but Collin’s homecoming also made for an emotional night, threatening to complicate matters.
“It was amazing,” Collin said. “This feels like home to me. It’s always very fun to play here. It was very emotional, so I had to control my emotions and make sure I stayed focused on the game.”
To his credit, Collin did just that. Helping to anchor the defense alongside fellow countryman Ronald Zubar, the Red Bulls managed to walk away with their first road point of the season.
“He handled it well, like a true professional,” Wright-Phillips said. “The fans were great to him, they gave him a nice welcome, but he was fully into the task. He’s done me proud tonight, I was happy for him. The emotion can get on top of you, but he dealt with it well.”