|photo by Matt Kremkau
by Garry Redman
HARRISON, NJ - No one will disagree that the Red Bulls played their worst season match at Stade Saputo, losing to Montréal 2-0 back in April. Since then, the Red Bulls have made some changes. First, Head Coach Gerhard Struber was relieved of his duties and replaced by Troy Lesesne. As a result, the team has enjoyed the "new coach bounce" thus far, defeating D.C. United in the Open Cup, and then NYCFC at home before neutralizing the expensive offense of Toronto F.C. en route to a scoreless draw on Wednesday.
Sean Nealis, Andres Reyes, and Cristian Cásseres Jr. picked up one-match bans due to yellow card accumulation and have returned for this match. Speaking of happy returns, Dante Vanzier completed the six-match ban he received in March, making him eligible for team selection and setting the stage for redemption in front of the supporters on a wet and dreary evening in Northern New Jersey.
Twenty-three minutes into the match, the Red Bulls struck first on a set piece. A corner kick was delivered by John Tolkin, and the ball deflected off a Montréal defender and was somehow allowed to bounce freely in the box until Andres Reyes quickly pounced on the loose ball and knocked it in the back of the net.
But the lead would not last very long. A careless foul by Cory Burke set up a set-piece situation for the visitors. George Campbell floated the ball in the box, and defender Joel Waterman, who was surprisingly unmarked, did the rest from close range, equalizing the match in the 29th minute.
But nine minutes later, the Red Bulls charged right into the Montréal defense, who were careless with the ball, and Cristian Casseres Jr. laid off a great pass to Cory Burke and bounced the ball into the net. The linesman first disallowed the goal as Burke looked like he was offside. However, under further review by VAR, the goal stood. And the Red Bulls recaptured the lead to the absolute delight of the supporters. Many of them felt wronged by decisions going the other way in previous matches.
The second half began with the Red Bulls looking to hold on to their slim one-goal lead but opted to push ahead. Montreal responded by trying to stretch the New York defense, which was compact and organized despite giving up a goal for the first time during Troy Lesesne in charge.
New York forward Dante Vanzier entered the match in the 66th minute, and most of the fans and supporters gave him a warm reception as he replaced Cory Burke in the lineup. He wasted very little time getting in the thick of things, taking a deft pass from Cameron Harper before he was immediately shut down by Montreal defender Rudy Camacho.
While Montréal pushed for the equalizer, the Red Bulls had an effective defensive response. Unlike matches in the past where the team could be counted on a fatal mistake down the stretch, there were no such gaffes this time as the defense was crisp, compact, and organized.
And when the final whistle was blown. The Red Bulls have won three matches, undefeated in four in all competitions, and have officially climbed out of the Eastern Conference cellar, now primed to make a run for a playoff spot down the road. Quite an achievement for a team that was considered left for dead six weeks ago. However, their celebration must be short, for the conference-leading F.C. Cincinnati will be rolling into Harrison on Tuesday night, looking to end the Red Bulls' run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament.
New York Red Bulls: Carlos Coronel, Sean Nealis, Andrés Reyes, Dylan Nealis, John Tolkin, Dru Yearwood (Hassan Ndam 78’), Peter Stroud, Wiki Carmona (Cameron Harper 67’), Omir Fernandez (Tom Barlow 57’), Cristian Casseres Jr., Cory Burke (Dante Vanzeir 67’)
C.F. Montréal: Jonathan Sirois, Rudy Camacho, Joel Waterman (Gabriele Corbo 46’), Aaron Herrera (Zachary Brault-Guillard 83’), George Campbell, Victor Wanyama, Bryce Duke (Matko Miljevic 83’), Lassi Lappalainen (Ahmed Hamdi 83’), Mathieu Choiniere, Chinonso Offor, Ariel Lassiter (Sunusi Ibrahim, 46’)
23' - New York Red Bulls - Andres Reyes - Unassisted
29' - C.F. Montréal - Joel Waterman, assisted by George Campbell
38' - New York Red Bulls - Cory Burke, assisted by Cristian Casseres Jr.
16' - C.F. Montréal - Rudy Camacho - Yellow Card
32' - C.F. Montréal - Bryce Duke - Yellow Card
45' - New York Red Bulls - Cristian Casseres Jr - Yellow Card
65' - C.F. Montréal - Aaron Herrera - Yellow Card