Luis Robles: “It’s about competing and they outcompeted us.” (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — The Red Bulls offered no excuses after their 2-0 home loss to New York City FC Saturday.
They knew they were out played by their Hudson River Derby rivals at Red Bull Arena, the first time they had tasted defeat at home in the eight-game rivalry.
“We are disappointed, because I don’t think the big game went very well for us,” captain and midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “I don’t think we played very well. We have to give NYCFC credit for coming to our place and deserving to win today. We have to regroup and get ready for the Open Cup.”
That would be the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup, a fifth-round encounter against the Philadelphia Union here Wednesday. To reach that match, the Red Bulls edged out NYCFC at RBA, 1-0, in a fourth-round match June 14.
That boosted their derby lead to 6-1.
But that was then and this is now.
“It’s completely different scenarios,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “It’s apples and oranges to me. When you’re playing in league and there is just so much going into it, I mean you saw the buildup, you were with me at MLS [headquarters]. There is so much excitement, coverage and marketing that goes into it. At the end of the day when you’re on the field it’s about competing and they outcompeted us.”
Robles discounted whether NYCFC was playing for revenge from that Open Cup match.
“It’s even more than that though,” he said. “It’s just overall everyone talking about the fact that they’re 1-6 against us and history has been spoken about in almost every article. I’m sure it doesn’t help, just the closeness of the matches because they are going to be a little more amped up than us but it’s still no excuse. I mean, I think looking at today’s performance and the fact that we just couldn’t create. … I don’t even know, did we put a shot on goal?”
Actually, the Red Bulls did — by left back Kemar Lawrence, which was saved by goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 80th minute.
“We have to give NYCFC credit,” Kljestan said. “They defended really well, I think they pressed very well, I think every time we had the ball, in any type of attacking play, they had two or three guys around the ball and it made it hard for us. So, it’s on us to figure out a way to be a little bit better and that’s been our problem all season.”
Head coach Jesse Marsch said City changed and improved several parts of its game, while playing a physical one as well.
“Which meant that we weren’t able to overrun them like we often do,” he said. Then I would say that we’re, unfortunately, kind of what we’ve been all year, which is not very efficient or effective in the attacking part of the field, and in some ways anemic, again, giving up goals on set pieces.”
That was Ben Sweat’s header off Alex Ring’s long free kick in the 65th minute that doubled the score to 2-0.
“We still seem to be affecting ourselves in negative ways with the same problems,” Marsch said. “It’s a really bad feeling right now to have them celebrate on our home field.”
The Red Bulls will have an opportunity to avenge Saturday’s defeat at Yankee Stadium Aug. 6 and then back at RBA Aug. 25.