(Bradley Wright-Phillips after his goal – @NewYorkRedBulls)
The Red Bulls had possibly their best performance of the season as they outlasted the Chicago Fire, 2-1, on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his fourth goal of the season, and team-record 73rd as a Red Bull, in the 37th minute off a cross from Daniel Royer.
Wright-Phillips said of his goal, “You know, it was a lot of work. For most of the play I stayed offside and I came onside at the right time, great ball from Daniel Royer and I just tried to get my foot on it.”
Chicago put one on the board the 59th minute, as ex-Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty set up Nemanja Nikolic for the tying goal.
Kemar Lawrence got the game-winning goal for the Red Bulls in the 71st minute.
Lawrence scored from a wide angle at the top corner of the box off a through ball from Damien Perrinelle.
Lawrence is the fourth Red Bull to score a goal this year, and it is the second of his New York career. The other came in an October 18, 2015 win over Philadelphia. Of Lawrence’s seven career points, six have been game-winning plays. He has tallied five game-winning assists and one game-winning goal.
The Red Bulls improved to 5-3-1, with 16 points and captured all nine potential points during its three-game homestand for the second time in four tries under head coach Jesse Marsch. The Red Bulls did not trail for the entire 270 minutes of the three-match homestand.
The Red Bulls stretched its unbeaten streak at Red Bull Arena to 19 consecutive matches, 16-0-3. During the stretch, the Red Bulls have tallied 12 clean sheets.
Marsch said of this game having the feel of a midseason match or end of the season match for points, “Yeah, I think there’s a number of factors. Obviously Dax coming back brings a lot of energy to the game. And then, you know, they have done well this year and they want to establish themselves as a better team.
“So a big part of that includes being good on the road, which in their recent history, it’s been difficult for them. So they came here and they knew that we’ve been good at home and they have spoken highly of us, which we appreciate, but we knew that we were going to get a really good effort from them, and they came in and played, you know, gave us a run for our money and had some good moments.
“So yeah, it had a high-energy feel to it, and that’s the best. That’s what makes this job great is when you have these kind of games that even earlier in the year, that feel like big games. So overall, I thought that that was good for us and good for the game.”
McCarty received a loud ovation from the fans when he was introduced, and played the kind of solid game Red Bulls fans were used to getting from him.
McCarty said of facing his former team, “I think I was really looking forward to it but now that it’s over its even more of a relief, just to get it over with. Obviously, there was a lot of hoopla surrounding the game, a lot of stuff written, a lot of chatter. But I think you just have to go out on the field and try to get through it. It’s emotional, obviously, it’s frustrating to not win. That’s the thing that I’m most upset about. You have to stick around after the game and sign all these autographs and you’re really pissed off inside that you didn’t win the game. So, that’s something that’ll bother me but we lost to a pretty good team. I thought the performance actually merited more than a loss. That’s the most frustrating part for me, but overall being back here was a good experience.”
On the Red Bulls tribute video, McCarty said, “I didn’t get a chance to see too much of it. I saw a little clip here and there but it was a nice gesture and obviously, I appreciate it.”
Marsch said of McCarty’s return, “Listen, in terms of Dax’s role in tonight, and role with the fans, like you know, this is what it should be. I think that’s what it should be. There should be an attachment to big players that have been in the club, and obviously the club always comments first.
“But there’s strong relationships that have been built over time. You know, this club has a lot of big faces and big names that have been a part of it, and the fans should enjoy those players and always treat them like they are family. So that’s important.
“I said earlier this week that it was important for Dax to come back here, feel like — appreciate the moments that he had here and for people to show appreciation to him, including the fans. I think it was also a good game for us, a good game for them, a good game for the league. There’s a lot of attention paid to it. That’s the way it should be. And then Dax makes a big play for them, too.
“But listen, what’s most important for us, specifically, is that we have such a strong belief in the team that we have here and the group that we have here and how we do things and what we’re building, and you know, I think that we’ve already in the short season learned so much about ourselves and continue to get better and now have to putt it to the test in this week because it’s going to be a very hard week, and we’ll find out more about ourselves in the next week.
“This is what this job is. It’s trying to build things up, put it to the test, build it up again, put it to the test. So overall, right now, after the last four games, I’m really pleased.”
Wright-Phillips said of playing against McCarty, “He’s a competitor, great player. It was a little emotional. It was weird to see him in that kit but we had a job to do and it got done.”
Marsch said of what it was like to see McCarty make plays against his team, “Yeah, that part was a little weird. Listen, I felt like their guys in the midfield were pretty quiet. Until Dax made that play, I thought the three in the middle were pretty quiet and we did a pretty good job of winning that battle and managing that.
“But then, you know, obviously you knew Dax had — he’s waiting for that moment. There was a set piece where the ball was bouncing around and maybe he could have got a foot on it. But good for him. Good for him.
“And in general, I thought that even though we weren’t at our best at certain moments in terms of what we did with the ball, we made it very difficult for them, counter-press, closed things down. The only way they were really able to hurt us were on some big switches and a couple plays that get through our lineup in the first half. Overall, the thing we talked about after the game is that each guy puts so much into the game physically. Like they try — they won our battles, won our duels, won second balls, won aerial battles, won tackles, and as much as we try to emphasize tactics so much, it’s so often going to come down to on the day who wants it more, who wants it more.
“It would have been easy when we went 1-1 to sort of tremble a little and now maybe pack it in and sometimes we’ve done that in the past. But this group kept going and you know, from my perspective, I’m trying to figure out how to make subs to help the game but guys stayed after the game and wanted to get the three points.”