Felipe celebrates his first goal of the season. (Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. – The Red Bulls continued their surge Wednesday night, this time punishing the San Jose Earthquakes.
Sacha Kljestan and Felipe connected for their first goals of the season only two minutes apart late in the second half to help transform a 1-0 lead into a 5-1 romp at Red Bull Arena Wednesday night.
It was the most goals the Red Bulls had tallied in a game all season.
“In terms of a comprehensive performance … it was good,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “We’re moving in the right direction. But I still believe there is plenty of room for improvement.
The win lifted the Red Bulls (9-8-2, 29 points) over .500 and into fifth place in the Eastern Conference while San Jose fell (26) to 7-8-5.
“The team is starting to their stride,” said Kljestan, whose two assists tied him with former Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry for the team career assist lead at 42. “The results have been pretty good for the last eight or nine games.”
Kljestan set up midfielder Sean Davis for a goal that lifted the hosts into a 1-0 lead against goalkeeper David Bingham in the 38th minute. That was Davis’ first goal of the season and second in his MLS career.
“New York did a good job coming out early and pressing us,” said new San Jose head coach Chris Leitch, a former Red Bulls defender who coached against his former team for the first time. “We got a little bit away from kind of what we wanted to do from the start.”
It wasn’t until the 73rd minute until New York found the net again as Kljestan, the team captain, struck to double the advantage. Kljestan had scored prior this year, but it was in a Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup match, not in the league.
“Quite a few guys in front of me,” Kljestan said. “I tried to put it in the corner and hoped that it got through everybody. Their goalkeeper is coming back across the goal so I tried to hit it back to that side because it’s hard for him to get back down. It might have gone through a defender’s legs, there was a lot of traffic but fortunately it went in.”
Only two minutes later, Felipe scored for a 3-0 bulge before Valeri Kazaishivili closed the gap to 3-1 for San Jose in the 88th minute.
Daniel Royer tallied a pair of late goals only a minute apart — in the 90th minute and a minute into stoppage time — to put the nail in the Quakes’ coffin. Royer has seven goals this season. Derrick Etienne Jr., who set up Royer’s first goal, recorded his first MLS career point.
“Derrick is a technical player,” Royer said. “He’s working really hard. I like the style he is as a player and there was obviously a great ball, a great chip behind the back four and I just tried to control it and to bring it on the goal. I was talking to Derrick after that one. It was a big one.”
For the Quakes, it will be a long ride back home to San Jose.
“It’s definitely a difficult result to swallow,” striker Chris Wondolowski said. “Credit to Red Bull; I thought they played an excellent game, executed a great game plan, and we ran out of gas and deservedly got punished for it.”