The New York Red Bulls made their first appearance in the 100th edition of the US Open Cup last night, hosting the fourth-division side Reading United A.C. After three years of the club dismissing the competition under Hans Backe, coach Mike Petke made a strong statement in their debut, playing a mix of starters and bench players to easily win 2-0 and advance to the next round.
The first half was one way traffic from the Red Bulls, but Reading's goalkeeper John McCarthey did well to shut down New York's attack. The second half substitutions of Dax McCarty and Fabian Espindola made the difference, as the two combined for the opening goal in the 61st minute, with Espindola tapping in a McCarty pass. Just six minutes later, the Red Bulls put the game to bed, with Lloyd Sam playing a give-and-go with Espindola to get inside the box and chip in the second goal.
The story of the night was not the win, but the return of 22-year-old goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who made his first start in nearly a year after an injury forced him into double hip surgery. Meara was forced to make three saves on the night, including a vital fingertip save as Reading tried to pull a goal back in the second half. The Fordham alum was all smiles before, during, and after the match - so much so that coach Petke lamented "I had to tell him during the game to stop smiling you know he’s got to be an intimidating presence."
The Red Bulls will next travel to Cambridge to take on the New England Revolution in the fourth round on June 12th. (Hey, at least it's not at Gillette!) The team also plays the last game of their three-game league home stand on Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Coach Mike Petke on his halftime message: "The message at halftime was exactly what I just said, the main part of it, which is to be patient. You know a lot of times they defended with one forward up top against two of our center backs and we were bringing midfielders back to get the ball and there is no need for that, you’re just making them feel small, let the 2v1 happen, bypass and get the ball. You know these are young players who we played against, they are young and exciting but like I was saying, they are only a week or two into their season maybe three, so move the ball fast and get them tired. At the end of the day, like I said, the goal I thought was beautiful, both of them; then we opened them up a bit, made them chase. My hat is off to them though, that’s a good young team with a lot of players that I think have futures."
Ryan Meara on coming back from injury: "You can take it for granted when you’re playing every day. I certainly don’t take it for granted anymore. I try to go out there and appreciate every day and have fun with it and it was tough going through what I went through, and being out for so long, but it’s in the past now and I’m looking forward."
Dax McCarty on the match: "It feels good to win. These games are never easy. It's always a challenge - especially against a team that's a PDL team, they're all college kids. Look, this is their World Cup - their biggest game of the year. So they always work hard, they always make it tough on us. We didn't play bad, we played okay - kind of grew into the game, had plenty of chances, and that's kind of how these games go. If you don't finish one in the first half, you're kind of sitting there scratching your head...the first goal was the key. I just think for the most part the key was being patient."