BY ERIC GIACOMETTI
It wasn’t easy, but the Red Bulls are moving on in the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Ahead of the match, head coach Mike Petke spoke of taking the Open Cup seriously this year, and more than delivered with the squad he sent out against Reading United. Littered with starters and fringe players fighting for minutes, the Red Bulls were clearly the dominant side in the contest.
Despite dominating the run of play in the first half, it wasn’t until second half substitute Fabian Espindola broke the deadlock in the 61st minute that New York could breathe easy.
From the first whistle, New York comfortably held possession as they created chance after chance. If not for some poor touches in the final third, the Red Bulls may have been able to alleviate some pressure much sooner.
At halftime, Petke preached patience to his squad.
“Our players were a bit frustrated in the first half. They were organized, sitting in, and waiting for us to make mistakes. The sixth, seventh pass was the wrong one and they could have made us pay.”
Petke inserted Espindola and Dax McCarty to start the second half hoping the duo would bring some much needed composure to a frustrated New York side.
The move paid dividends as the trio of Espindola, McCarty, and Lloyd Sam combined to stake the Red Bulls to a two goal cushion that would see them through to the next round of the U.S. Open Cup.
With Reading United on the back foot, the Red Bulls continued to impose their will on the young PDL side. The breakthrough came off a clever one-two ball between Sam and McCarty. The American sent a low ball across the goalmouth and Espindola was there at the far post for the finish.
New York didn’t have to wait long to get their insurance goal as Sam extended the Red Bulls’ lead just 6 minutes later. McCarty sent a quick pass off a free kick to Sam who barreled down the touch line. Sam found Espindola in the box, who laid off a perfectly weighted one-touch pass back to Sam who calmly chipped the Reading keeper John McCarthey to seal the win for New York.
“Once we got the goal it opened things up, and I was very happy with the way we possessed the game and killed it off,” Petke said.
On a night where he was named man of the match, Fabian Espindola saw his evening come to an early end after suffering a late tackle in the 90th minute. Petke was optimistic about the prognosis after the match.
“The initial report is a grade one sprain which shouldn’t be too bad. He’s walking on it OK, he has ice on it. I don’t suspect, at this moment, it’s going to be too serious.”
With the win, the Red Bulls will advance to take on the New England Revolution on Wednesday, June 12th in the next round of the US Open Cup.
New York continues their home stand on Saturday as they return to league play against the Vancouver Whitecaps.