by ANTHONY J. MERCED
Sacha Kljestan scored twice in the first half on Tuesday in Tucson, Ariz., as the New York Red Bulls defeated a young NYCFC side in a preseason match, 2-0. It was Kljestan’s first appearance with the Red Bulls since being named the team’s captain earlier in the day.
Coach Jesse Marsch had the team playing a 4-2-2-2 formation with Gonzalo Verón and Bradley Wright-Phillips as the strikers. Kljestan from time to time swapped positions with the top two, creating opportunities that led to the team’s two goals. The first was a pass by Verón who found Kljestan unmarked, in the box. The second was a brilliant through ball by Daniel Royer that found the Red Bulls’ captain who buried his second goal.
NYCFC played a side filled with young players as David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and several other key starters were absent. Instead, Khiry Shelton and the 2016 USL MVP Sean Okoli provided the offense and pushed NYCFC to a fast start in the first half. By the 30th minute the Red Bulls had control of possession and were able to use their size and experience to their advantage.
Over all the Red Bulls looked to get minutes for their starters and Wright-Phillips, Royer, Kljestan and Gonzalo Verón all played at least 75 minutes. The immediacy of match-fitness hangs over the team’s head as they brace for their CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps next Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.
New York Red Bulls: Robles; Bilyeu, Long, Collin, Zizzo; Felipe, Davis, Royer (Etienne), Kljestan; Verón, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Allen)
NYCFC: Johansen (Rawls); Allen (Matarrita), Sweat, White, Gomez; Awuah, Wingate (Sands), Stertzer; Shelton (Harrison), Brown, Okoli
23 (RBNY) Kljestan (1) assisted by Verón (1)
43 (RBNY) Kljestan (2) assisted by Royer (1)
47 (RBNY) Yellow Card: Martins
85 (NYCFC) Yellow Card: Sweat