Caden Clark scored for the fourth consecutive home game. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Orlando City SC entered its match against the Red Bulls undefeated and conceding only two goals in six matches.
That hardly deterred the Red Bulls.
They went on and handed their Eastern Conference rivals their first defeat of the season in a 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena on a cold and sometimes rainy Memorial Day weekend Saturday.
Caden Clark scored in his fourth consecutive home game and Cristian Casseres, Jr. added an impressive free kick for the hosts, who improved to 3-4-0 and nine points. Orlando (10 points) dropped to 3-1-3.
“We’re happy with the performance with the winning the game,” head coach Gerhard Struber said. “They can see the next big step in our process. Every single player showed me that we are ready for opponents on this level. I think especially in the first half, we played absolutely in the style of play what I will see I think is the signature [of the team].
“The opponent in the first half has chance, no time, no space and this is what what what they will see from my boys. We played with a big heart.”
While the Lions held the possession edge in the first half, the Red Bulls made life difficult for the visitors by pressuring them and their efforts eventually paid off.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) May 29, 2021
Clark gave the Red Bulls all the scoring they needed in the 35th minute when he completed a nifty combination play of teamwork. Patryk Klimala, making his first MLS start, provided the assist from the right side to Clark, who celebrated his 18th birthday Thursday.
“It is just this Red Bull system sets you up for the things that are happening on the field,” Clark said. “I think, today, coach was spot on with the tactics, they could not get around us many times and once they did, we were prepared for that. I think attacking wise as well, we knew where the space was going to be, and we executed it and we were sharp on the day.”
Casseres doubled the lead on the hour as he converted a free kick, the first scored directly by a Red Bulls player since the 2019 MLS season. Orlando City build a four-man wall, which another player knelling behind his teammates to stop a low shot as they jumped.
It didn’t matter where the Lions set up as Casseres powered his 24-yard spot kick into the upper left corner past the reach of goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.
“Cristian is absolutely the player what I love in this system,” Struber said. “Cristian makes today, outstanding brilliant performance against the ball he wins so many duels. He was always on the ball, cleaner like the last games he was for the whole team. … He’s also a leader. He takes his responsibility,”
You simply cannot hit it any better than this. Take a bow, @ccasseres23! pic.twitter.com/NRJr4bsSTO
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) May 29, 2021
Orlando City SC pulled one back in the 84th minute as Silvester van der Water scored his first MLS goal from eight yards out from the right side of the penalty area off a Tesho Akindele feed.
Van der Water had a golden opportunity equalized in the 89th minute but his lofted a 10-yard shot over the net.
New York played without center back Andres Reyes, who was suspended for his red card in last week’s 3-1 loss at the New England Revolution.
The Red Bulls have scored 10 goals this season, eight from midfielders, two from defenders and none from the forward line.
The Red Bulls will have off until Friday, June 18, due to the international break. They will meet Nashville SC.