|photo by Matt Kremkau
In a match that would test both the identity and resolve of Gerhard Struber's team ahead of the U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday, Tom Barlow's goal would be the difference as the New York Red Bulls escape Q2 Stadium in a wild and entertaining match, 4-3.
Austin FC's number one goalkeeper Brad Stuver was unavailable for the match due to the league's Health and Safety Protocol. As a result, Andrew Tarbell started in his place. However, he and his team had difficulty settling in defensively, thanks to the Red Bulls' attackers frantically pressing the defenders on every possession as they played the ball from the back.
Omir Fernandez nearly took advantage by getting in front of the Austin defense by taking a through ball from Sean Nealis and promptly putting the ball in the back of the net but was negated by the assistant referee, as Fernandez was caught in an offside position.
Red Bulls' press was making things very difficult for Austin FC early. Once again, they found themselves in the attack as Patryk Klimala connected with Caden Clark via a nifty pass. Still, the apparent goal was again negated, as Clark was caught in an offside position this time.
But the Red Bulls would not be denied in the 14th minute. Serge Ngoma, who was making his first MLS start, received a great pass from John Tolkin, and he did the rest. Scoring the second goal of his career, blasting the ball straight to Tarbell, who did not handle it very well as it bounced between his legs into the back of the net, putting the hosts in the lead.
The Red Bulls doubled their lead in the 26th minute. With Patryk Klimala on the counter and taking a shot from a distance, Tarbell dived to his right and made the save. But his defenders carelessly didn't clear the ball, and Drew Yearwood picked up the ball, danced around the Austin defense, and let off a vicious shot that nestled into the back of the net, stunning the sell-out crowd into silence.
However, Serge Ngoma was replaced by Cameron Harper after suffering an injury to his hamstring in the 32nd minute, and the Red Bulls lost a key player that was a catalyst for the two-goal lead in the first half.
Austin nearly got on the board as Sebesatian Druissi let an attack deep in the New York defense, but Felipe's shot went high and over the bar, drawing exasperated groans from the home supporters. However, in the 45th minute, after John Tolkin conceded a corner kick, an unmarked Sebastian Druissi would score the goal on a volley from outside the box, suddenly cutting the Red Bulls' lead in half.
The goal had Austin FC smelling blood, as Aaron Long conceded another corner, and the ball was bouncing in the box when defender Julio Cascante headed the ball over the net.
The Red Bulls would restore their two-goal advantage just six minutes into the second half as Dru Yearwood connected with Cameron Harper for his second goal of the season, darting through the unsettled Austin defense to the middle of the box and cooly burying the shot in the back of the net.
Red Bulls would tack on another goal in the 65th minute when Caden Clark kept the play alive and got the ball over to Tom Barlow, who settled it down and, with one bounce, blasted the ball past the keeper for his third of the season.
But, just like he did at the end of the first half, Sebastian Driussi would strike again. And once again, the Argentine scored his second goal of the match spectacularly, taking a pass, dancing around Dru Yearwood, and letting loose a blast of a shot from outside the box, over the outstretched hands of Coronel. Giving the home supporters some semblance of hope.
And that hope would grow even more significant in the 81st minute, Washington. Still, Ethan Corozo started the affair with a bicycle kick shot that initially bounced untouched across the face of the goal, but Ethan Findlay was wide open to take the loose ball and tap home the goal. Sending the sell-out crowd into partial delirium.
But that was as far as they got as Barlow's go-ahead goal was the difference for the Red Bulls to escape the stifling Texas heat, the super-charged atmosphere from the home supporters, and the high-powered offense of Austin FC with all three points.
THE BIG PICTURE:
With the US Open Cup looming on Wednesday night in Orlando, Gerhard Struber's men had a huge road victory. While the dearth of New York's offense from the striker position was seen lacking, four different players were able to penetrate the Austin FC defense, at one point, having a commanding lead 3-1 lead before Druissi scored two goals to close the gap. In any case, the team earned another hard-fought victory on the road, firmly earning the "road warrior" status as they now set their sights on making their third US Open Cup finals appearance.