Sacha Kljestan connected twice in the first half. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
There are a few ways to look at the Red Bulls’ 2-0 victory over New York City FC in the desert version of the Hudson River Derby.
The Red Bulls deployed a Starting XI that could very well be the starting lineup for next Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first-leg encounter with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
City, on the other hand, used a lineup of reserve players and trialists trying to impress head coach Patrick Vieira.
So, the two-goal margin should not be surprising at all. And, it should not be used as a barometer as to determine which team is better.
The three-game derby series in the regular season will determine that.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan celebrated him being named captain earlier in the day, struck twice in the opening half at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz.
The Red Bulls opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. The play started with Bradley Wright-Phillips getting the ball just above the box and finding Gonzalo Veron, who turned into space and laid a pass across for Kljestan to finish from the penalty spot.
Speaking of the penalty spot, the Blues had a great opportunity to equalize in the 36th minute when Red Bulls center back Aurelien Collin fouled Khiry Shelton in the penalty area. Sean Okoli, who earned the United Soccer League MVP and Golden Boot with FC Cincinnati last year, took the ensuring penalty kick. He did a stutter step and sent his kick right to goalkeeper Luis Robles, who had an easy save.
Kljestan added another goal in the 43rd minute, beating goalkeeper Eirik Johansen after a Veron through ball.
The former Seton Hall University standout almost had a hat-trick, but a goal in the 91st minute was called back due to an offside call.
The Red Bulls’ starters played the entire match, with only two substitutions.
Wright-Phillips and Royer left the game in the 82nd minute, making way for Homegrown Players Brandon Allen and Derrick Etienne Jr., respectively.
Red Bulls’ lineup: Luis Robles; Sal Zizzo, Aaron Long, Aurelien Collin, Justin Bilyeu; Sean Davis, Felipe, Sacha Kljestan ©, Danny Royer (Derrick Etienne, Jr., 82′), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Brandon Allen, 82′), Gonzalo Veron
NYC FC starting lineup: Johansen, Gomez, White, Sweat, Allen (C), Wingate, Awuah, Stertzer, Shelton, Brown, Okoli