Omir Fernandez (right) celebrates his goal with his teammates. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
On Day Two of one of the most interesting weeks in the life of Troy Lesesne, he enjoyed one memorable debut as coach of the Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night.
Lesesne, who replaced the departed Gerhard Struber on Monday, ran the show as his team registered a 1-0 win over D.C. United in one of the oldest MLS rivalries (Atlantic Cup), at MSU Soccer Park on the campus of Montclair State in Montclair, N.J.
The former New Mexico United head coach replaced Gerhard Struber, whose 1-4-6 team occupied the Eastern Conference cellar.
“The message to the team was really clear,” Lesesne said. “Going into the match, we needed to have action. We needed to use this as a reset and start to move forward in our season and this was a great chance for us to be able to move in that direction tonight, a game so quickly after so much is going on in the last 24 or 48 hours. And I have big respect for these guys because this hasn’t been easy for anybody in the club right now. And how they responded and it was first class and I think it’s a really positive step in the right direction, from players to staff, the support from our supporters in our community here. I’m just really thrilled to see us again, move in the right in the right direction. And now we got a big test on the weekend, which I’m sure there’ll be some questions about.”
Still, Lesesne should be allowed to bask in the victory, only the Red Bulls’ second across all competitions this season.
“I would rate it as highly as I can possibly rate it,” he said. “I thought that it was a great experience to be here at Montclair State. This is a place that I played many times for USL matches, so I know it well. And so it’s kind of ironic now that my first match as head coach for Red Bulls was that a place that I’ve been to many times to get a result you know and such a necessary time for the club as well. So it’s it’s really positive.”
After the Red Bulls dominated the early going, but could not convert their chances, Omir Fernandez gave them a deserved lead in the 28th minute as he slotted home a Tom Barlow right-wing cross past goalkeeper Alex Bono.
“I was just happy,” Fernandez said. “I wasn’t really thinking about myself, I was thinking about a little bit of relief for my team. I think we needed that a little bit to go up 1-0 on the game. Ultimately, I just thought about a big relief and a little bit of a confidence boost for my team.”
Ryan Meara, an Open Cup veteran as New York’s long-time reserve goalkeeper, did not have to make a save as he registered the shutout.
“Obviously it’s been a crazy week for us, a crazy 48 hours even,” he said. “Listen, it’s been a disappointing season so far. So just to get a win and get that feeling of being happy in the locker room after the game and get the good energy back. And of course, a clean sheet is always huge. We’ll feel good about this for a little bit and then it’s focused on New York City.”
Lesesne’s next challenge certainly won’t get any easier this weekend as the Red Bulls host New York City FC in the Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena on Day Six of his most interesting week on Saturday night.