The New York Red Bulls disjointed offseason came to an end Wednesday. The Red Bulls spent their first few weeks of preseason missing a number of key players for a variety of reasons. Louis Robles and Sacha Kljestan spent time with the US National Team. Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Kljestan again, missed time attending the birth of their children. The lack of bite in attack showed in the scoreline of the preseason tilts. New York City FC returned from a trip to Ecuador and left the majority of the starters off the starting XI. It may be the only time these rivals meet with such low stakes.
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The Red Bulls trotted out their new look 4-2-2-2 partnering Bradley Wright-Phillips and Gonzalo Veron up top. The early returns have been quite positive for the second year in a row. Veron had several good plays in the opening 20 minutes, including assisting on the opening goal in the 23rd minute.
Sean Davis and Bradley Wright-Phillips combined in the midfield and the latter found Veron at the top of the box. The winger did well to control the bobbling ball beating both defenders on him and walking into the box easily. The third year designated player played an unselfish ball across the box to a wide-open Sacha Kljestan. He finished low into a mostly empty net.
Kljestan notched his second in 43rd, off a wonderful feed from Daniel Royer. Royer showed well throughout the day, picking up the slack for the departed Dax McCarty as a midfield pest. Royer forced a number of turnovers stopping NYC attacks and creating opportunities throughout the match.
Jesse Marsch was happy with what he saw from the newly captained Kljestan. “He’s been like a captain here already for two years. What we always like to say is, it’s not just his job. I think the way that Louis and Bradley support him as being big leaders on our team, and I think those three are really going to grow into big leadership roles like they have already. I think they will continue to blossom. Sacha really has the ability to put the team on his shoulders, and take it from there. So, you know, he’s a natural captain.”
The Red Bulls had a number of issues in defense, but still managed to keep a clean sheet, with some help from Louis Robles. The MLS ironman came up huge in 39th with a penalty stop on Sean Okoli. The former Cincinnati man stepped up to the spot after Aurelian Collin fouled Khiry Shelton. Okoli’s softly taken penalty was easily stopped by Robles.
The Red Bulls gained a win against rival NYC FC, but more importantly achieved a number of important game goals. This was the first match that the entirety of the first team played 90 minutes together so far this preseason. Keeping a clean sheet and creating a number of quality chances were just icing on the cake. With the CONCACAF Champions League just a week away, Red Bull fans should be delighted with the results so far.