Daniel Royer celebrates his goal. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. — The Red Bulls moved within striking range of first place in the Eastern Conference by recording a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena Friday night.
New York (8-6-3, 27 ppoints) rode goals by Kaku, Brian White and Daniel Royer as striker Bradley Wright-Phillips saw his first action in more than two months after being sidelined by a groin injury.
The Red Bulls extended their home unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1) before a crowd of 17,563. The Fire (19) fell to 4-7-7.
Goalkeeper Luis Robles recorded a season-best seven saves and moved into seventh all-time in MLS in wins with 108.
The Red Bulls are coming off a pair of tough losses, which includes losing a two-goal lead and then the game in league play to the Philadelphia Union 3-2, and being eliminated by the New England Revolution in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“You know, when you win, it’s always good for the psyche,” head coach Chris Armas said. “It’s always good for the team. It starts with the points. You win at home, you win, it’s three points, you score first. There’s so many positives in there, Chicago is right behind us in the standings, a couple of slots down, you separate from the rest of the pack a little bit.
“Coming off the Philadelphia game, we’re up 2-0. That one hurts. New England, should have put that one away. That one hurts. That’s not easy to rebound from.”
After Kenneth Kronholm’s mishandling of a pass, Kaku took control of the ball and put the Red Bulls into a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. Kaku has recorded a point in five consecutive matches (three goals, two assists).
The host side doubled its lead almost on the hour via a counterattacker. Royer dribbled into the box and sent a pass across the six-yard box. White slid in and snuck his shot to the near post in the 59th minute. It was Royer;s 28th career goal with the Red Bulls.
White scored his team-leading fifth league goal of the season in 708 minutes. He has recorded three goals and one assist in the last five games, including goals in back-to-back matches.
Chicago cut the lead in half in the 81st minute. Aleksandar Katai ripped a shot from the top of the 18-yard box and bounced off the crossbar back into play. Nemanja Nikolic collected the loose ball and beat Robles.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Wright-Phillips saved a ball from going out-of-bounds and sent it down the sideline for Kyle Duncan. Duncan took possession of the ball, dribbled into the box and launched a pass to the opposite side for Royer. Royer redirected the pass with his body to the near post to seal the victory.
Robles was happy with the win — at least for the time being.
“I’m content until we watch the video,” he said. “Right now you want to soak it up and enjoy the three points because winning is difficult and it’s a feeling that never gets old. As we sit in this locker room and we have a great result for us today, the three points and the victory, it all feels really nice. But tomorrow it’s back to the classroom, it’s back to video, back to making this team as good as possible and we know we can continue to improve. There are moments in that game when we watch on video, we have to get better at. I know that we will and that’s what’s going to allow us to be successful this season.”