|photo by Matt Kremkau
HARRISON, NJ - An early goal by Lewis Morgan and a show-stopping chip by Luquinhas gave the Red Bulls and their supporters the much-needed lift they sought, downing Toronto FC, 2-0 at Red Bull Arena Saturday night.
The Red Bulls returned to Harrison, looking to distance themselves from the galling 2-0 defeat suffered at the hands of Charlotte FC last weekend. A defeat Head Coach Gerhard Struber called "a major disappointment.", hoping that his team would take advantage of an opportunity to "take the next step" in their progress as one of the teams to capture the conference.
Meanwhile, Toronto FC was looking to turn their fortunes around on the road; despite not being able to post a clean sheet in 22 consecutive matches dating back to last September, including all 14 games this season, Toronto has kept just one clean sheet in their previous 44 matches.
With forward Patryk Klimala out of the lineup due to a suspension handed down by the league, midfielder Omir Fernandez was given the start up top by Struber, who was looking to jump-start the Red Bulls offense, that has been sputtering lately. Captain and center-back Aaron Long returned to the lineup to shore up the defense after his stint with the U.S. National Team during the international break.
The Red Bulls didn't waste any time getting on the scoreboard. Just two minutes in, off a corner kick served brilliantly by John Tolkin, the ball met the head of Lewis Morgan, and just like that, they were off and running with a 1-0 lead.
Toronto had a couple of chances to equalize the match, with Ako Akinola coming the closest, but could not put the ball on frame.
Tom Barlow nearly had a Father's Day present, but his shot was denied by Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. Still, Luquinhas spotted Westberg off his line and coolly chipped the ball up and over everyone into the back of the net, doubling the advantage for the hosts in the 56th minute.
In the 82nd minute, midfielder Jacob Shaffelburg, taking full advantage of miscommunication between the New York defenders, had a clear shot at getting Toronto on the scoreboard. But, his shot was easily saved by Carlos Coronel, who didn't have much to do at that point of the match.
By the time the final whistle was blown by referee Ramy Touchan, the Red Bulls had found themselves second in the Eastern Conference table and fourth overall in the league. A positive result despite the dim outlook of the team's chances at the beginning of the season.
THE BIG PICTURE:
No matter how this result is viewed by the supporters and assorted pundits that follow this team, this was a much-needed win. The Red Bulls must now bring their collective focus on their local rivals, the New York City Football Club, for a chance to make the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.