Red Bulls celebrate Bradley Wright-Phillips’ first-half goal. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — So much for any CONCACAF Champions League hangover.
The Red Bulls put their disappointment of their semifinal elimination behind them Saturday by registering a solid 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact.
Kaku snapped a 1-1 deadlock with his first MLS goal in the 57th minute in a workmanlike performance for the club before an announced crowd of 15,017 at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls improved to 3-2-0 while the Impact fell to 2-4-0.
“It was good to get three points,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “It was good to respond after a very difficult Tuesday night. Our group is strong. We like our group a lot and I think we’re only getting better but this was I think a big statement to ourselves that we could handle the disappointment and be strong enough to get through it.”
Team captain Luis Robles agreed.
“It’s very easy to have a hangover in this situation because of the emotional fare Champions League was,” he said. “So it was very importatnt for us to show the resolve we know that we possess but also to get points because Montreal is in conference and all of these games matter late into the season.”
Only seconds prior to the game-winning goal, Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush gave out of the net to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips on the left side of the penalty area. As Bush scrambled back to the net, the rebound went to BWP, who found an open Kaku at the top of the box. The Argentine unleashed a bullet into the upper right corner for his first MLS goal.
“This was Kaku’s best game by a mile,” Marsch said. “He’s worked hard to try to understand tactically what we’re trying to get out of him. He’s worked hard to understand now what the reactions are, where he’s needed.”
The hosts weren’t finished. Left back Kemar Lawrence drove a cross through the goal mouth to an open Michael Murillo, who slipped it home for a two-goal cushion in the 76th minute. It also was Murillo’s first goal of the season.
“Amir is really gifted, right, physically, tactically, technically, and since he’s been here, we’ve seen the qualities,” Marsch said. “When he’s come from Panama, he’s got a very tranquillo mode about him so we’ve tried to ramp up, especially with what we do here. It’s a mentality thing.
“So we’re always trying to push his mentality to be the best that he can be, the best, most intense, most energetic, most concentrated version of himself. And when he is that, he’s very, very good. Very good. And the ceiling is very high.”
The Red Bulls came out on fire.
In contrast to their frustrating scoreless draw against Chivas Tuesday night, they found the net early in the match.
Wright-Phillips latched onto a Florian Valot feed and beat goalkeeper Evan Bush on the right side for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. Up until that point, BWP had scored four goals in only 145 minutes of MLS action this season.
Daniel Royer, who endured a frustrating first half, almost doubled the lead two minutes later as he tried a backheel shot from close range that was cleared off the line.
Slowly, but surely, the Impact imposed itself on the match and it finally paid off in the 33rd minute as Jeisson Vargas lofted a free kick over a five-man wall that hit the post and bounded past keeper Luis Robles for a 1-1 tie.
The goal snapped a 393-minute home shutout streak in league play for the Red Bulls, dating back to last season. The last time they surrendered a home goal was during stoppage time, an own goal by New York’s Fidel Escobar in a 3-3 draw with D.C. United Sept. 27.
“We started so great,” Robles said. “Everyone thought, man, this could be a blowout and then we took our foot off the gas a little bit. It could be a variety of things. It’s the mental fatigue we have been experiencing because of the CCL run. The heat is a factor. It was a very real factor for them in the second half.”
Royer, who accidentally bumped into Tyler Adams to slow down a Red Bulls sequence minutes earlier, found himself 1 v 1 with Bush in the 40th minute, but he powered his attempt off the crossbar.
The Red Bulls bounced back with a big second half.
“Mentally if this team wants to accomplish big things, we have to be sharp. We have to be strong,” Robles said. “We have to be able to see a game through 90 minutes. I felt today we were missing a bit in the first half, but our response in the second half was great.”
NY – Bradley Wright-Phillips 4 (Florian Valot) 5′
MTL – Jeisson Vargas (unassisted) 33′
NY – Alejandro Romero Gamarra 1 (Bradley Wright-Phillips) 57′
NY – Michael Amir Murillo 1 (Kemar Lawrence) 76′
New York Red Bulls: Luis Ro
bles ©; Kemar Lawrence, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Michael Amir Murillo, Tyler Adams, Sean Davis (Alex Muyl, 87′), Daniel Royer, Alejandro Romero Gamarra (Marc Rzatkowski, 82′), Florian Valot, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Derrick Etienne, Jr., 78′)
TOTAL SHOTS: 18; SHOTS ON GOAL: 11; FOULS: 9; OFFSIDE: 6; CORNER KICKS: 9; SAVES: 2
Montreal Impact: Evan Bush; Rudy Camacho, Victor Cabrera, Rod Fanni (Daniel Lovitz, 40′), Jukka Raitala, Chris Duvall, Alejandro Silva, Samuel Piette, Ken Krolicki (Louis Beland-Goyette, 57′), Igancio Piatti ©, Jeisson Vargas (Anthony Jackson-Hamel, 66′)
TOTAL SHOTS: 9; SHOTS ON GOAL: 3; FOULS: 10; OFFSIDE: 3; CORNER KICKS: 4; SAVES: 8
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referees: Peter Manikowski, Eric Weisbrod
4th Official: Marcos Deoliveira
VAR: Silviu Petrescu