Ben Mines celebrates his first goal in his MLS debut. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — For most of the preseason, the Red Bulls’ brass claimed it had a deep team.
On Saturday night, the Red Bulls went out and proved it – spectacularly.
Despite using only three regulars, New York spoiled the return of former Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese to the metropolitan area with a 4-0 victory over the Portland Timbers at Red Bull Arena.
Carlos Rivas recorded a second-half brace, 17-year-old Ben Mines tallied his first Major League Soccer goal in his debut, and Bradley Wright-Phillips a late goal to power New York.
Goalkeeper Luis Robles, off his superb 13-save performance in the CONCACAF Champions League win Tuesday night, recorded the clean sheet in his MLS-record 175th consecutive start in the net.
“I think obviously a very good performance, and I think the part that I’m happiest with is the fact that we played like us, we looked like us,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “There were different names on the back of the jerseys, but that looked like our team. That’s always our goal. So even if you don’t get the result on the day, you know, it’s so important that our team plays the way that we want to play.”
The start of the match was delayed 15 minutes because the Timbers arrived late at the stadium. On Twitter, Portland owner Merritt Paulson said the team’s police escort had the team bus going in the wrong direction.
As expected, Jesse Marsch primarily used a lineup of reserves against the Timbers, as he was saving his regulars for Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League clash against Tijuana. The only regulars in the Starting XI were goalkeeper Luis Robles, center back Aurelien Collin and midfielder Sean Davis.
It took Mines all of 18 minutes in his MLS debut to score his first professional goal.
Derrick Etienne, Jr. flipped the ball to Alejandro Romero Gamarra on the left flank and the Argentine midfielder sent a cross to the far post to Mines as the Red Bull Academy product slipped it past goalkeeper Jake Gleeson for a 1-0 lead.
Etienne, looking more confident and comfortable, played an impressive game, leading the Red Bulls’ offensive charge.
The Timbers tried to split the New York defense with some through balls on the counter, but the hosts managed to dodge the bullet on several occasions.
Robles was not called upon as many times as he was during the 2-0 win in Tijuana, but he was up to the task. His most memorable stop came in the 63rd minute when he palmed away Dairon Asprilla’s shot with his left hand.
Wright-Phillips, who replaced Etienne, Jr. in the 64th minute, got on the scoresheet in the 77th minute as he headed home from close range for a 2-0 advantage. Davis started the play with a corner kick that Vincent Bezecourt headed toward BWP, who did the rest.
Only three minutes later, Rivas tallied his first goal as a Red Bull, beating Gleeson from eight yards on the right side off a Bezecourt feed.
Rivas added his second goal in the third minute of stoppage time to put an exclamation point on the win.
One thing is certain: Marsch will have some difficult decisions to make during the next eight months in picking a Starting XI or the full 18 per match.
“When I’m watching the game, I’m almost thinking to myself, man, it’s going to be a tough job for me this year to keep everybody moving forward in a way that honors where they are at,” he said.
Other coaches should have those kind of problems.