Red Bulls Notebook: No Looking Back

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

Red Bulls logoWHIPPANY, N.J. — After a contentious match, after all the back and forth on social media, after the loss to their local rival at Yankee Stadium last Sunday, the Red Bulls have moved on — or are trying to. They are preparing for the first of four games, Saturday night against visiting Orlando City, over the next two weeks culminating with the third and final game of the regular season against New York City FC, on Aug. 25.

“I think we have to look forward,” midfielder Felipe Martins said after training on Thursday. “We have a big week coming up. There is not one game that is going to change our season. We won how many against them [NYC] the past two years? It is going to make us stronger. Against NYC, it was just another game, yes our rivals, but we’re going to make the real accounting at the end of the season. That’s how we have to look at it.”

The loss snapped the Red Bulls’ four-game winning streak in Major League Soccer and gave NYC its second straight win this season in the Hudson River Derby. Though Felipe was emphatic in his comments, the captain Sacha Kljestan was less so.

Asked if it was difficult to put Sunday’s 3-2 loss behind them, he said: “It’s 50/50. I guess we want to move on as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is with the next victory. We know we have a huge week coming up with three games in six days. It’s going to test our depth and also going to test our character.”

After the match against Orlando City (8-9-6, 30 points) the Red Bulls (11-9-2, 35) travel to Ohio to play FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night. The winner advances to the final at Sporting Kansas City in late September. After the cup game, New York heads to Portland for a game on Friday, Aug. 18.

The Lions come to Red Bull Arena with only one win in their last nine games dating to early June. It will be Orlando’s third-straight game on the road, though the team should benefit from the return from injury of the Brazilian midfielder Kaká — who is working his way back into form.

During training, Coach Jesse Marsch could be heard barking instructions to his players to be aware of Kaká’s moves at all times. Vincent Bezecourt played the decoy of Kaká, wearing a blue pinny to make him stand out.

“It’s part of the package making sure where he is and then where the two strikers [Cyle Larin and the recently acquired Dom Dwyer] are as well,” Marsch said. “We have a game plan that involves keeping track of their dangerous attacking players. I think it’s a game we can command the pace of a lot and command with possession and opportunities. But we have to know they’re very dangerous on the counter and very dangerous individually.”

Chasing Silverware

The Red Bulls have only two silver platters of significance in their trophy case — from winning the Supporters Shield as the No. 1 team over all in 2013 and 2015 — in a club history that stretches back to 1996, first as the MetroStars.

They now have an opportunity to play for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title if they can get by FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night at sold out Nippert Stadium. The United Soccer League club has already knocked off two MLS clubs and has not allowed a goal against.

“We haven’t yet watched film will but we have Sunday and Monday to prepare,” Kljestan said. “We know our staff has been watching and have the help of John [Wolyniec, coach of Red Bulls II] and the second team ,who have played them in the past. We’ll be prepared and treat it like the biggest game of our season. I’m sure we’re going into a tough place to play, they haven’t given up a goal in the Open Cup, and they’ve got 30,000-plus behind them. It’s definitely not going to be easy. We’re going to a tough place to play, but we have to go in with a great mentality — and take it seriously.

Though the match and the play of Cincy have kindled a growing interest in the national championship, the game will not be available on TV, but can only be seen via a live stream on the website of U.S. Soccer. It is hardly an optimum way to advertise the kind of David-and-Goliath clash that makes cup competitions so alluring.

“I think Cincinnati has done a good job at raising the awareness of the Open Cup in the games they’ve played at home,” Kljestan added. “Beating a couple of MLS sides and having 30,000 people, and trying to get into MLS has been big for them. I’ve talked about the Open Cup being a great competition and having hopes of U.S. Soccer putting more money into it and getting it on TV. That would be great. Everyone loves an underdog story.”

Notes

Marsch said that Daniel Royer, the MLS Player of the Month in July who was injured early against NYCFC, has been making quick progress with what the coach called an “hyperextended knee, I use the word torsion.” Marsch said that Royer, the team’s second-leading scorer behind Bradley Wright-Phillips, has looked better each day, though he will probably be sidelined until the game against NYCFC on Aug. 25. … After the loss at Yankee Stadium last Sunday, Marsch was critical of Referee Baldomero Toledo. Asked if there has been any blowback, Marsch said, “No. Not yet.” Did he anticipate any? “Nope.” Nothing? “I haven’t heard anything .” Yet. That changed late on Friday when Commissioner Don Garber fined Marsch — and Gregg Berhalter of Columbus and Mike Petke of Real Salt Lake — undisclosed sums for their public criticism of officials. … It is expected that Alex Muyl will start in place of Royer against Orlando City. …  The Red Bulls on Thursday signed the MLS veteran and Montville, N.J., native Dilly Duka and plan to promote Bezecourt from Red Bulls II later on Friday. Marsch said he expects a couple of additional player announcement in the coming days. The official transfer window is closed, though teams can sign free agents. … Marsch said that the newly signed Fidel Escobar will be loaned to RBII this week to get some playing time at Charleston.