A week after escaping with a win, after being dominated, Vancouver Whitecaps were unable to repeat the feat dropping a 3-0 result to New York Red Bulls, for their first ever loss in New Jersey.
After giving up a first half goal to Daniel Royer, the ‘Caps would be beaten twice in the second half by Bradley Wright-Phillips and Felipe, offering nothing in return and capitulating in a way not befitting a team leading the Western Conference.
With the majority of the opening half hour being dominated by the home side, the Red Bulls finally struck in the 33rd minute when Daniel Royer took a perfectly placed pass from Sacha Kljestan to score from just outside the six yard area.
The Whitecaps needed the heroics of David Ousted just after the break when he was able to get down and stop a shot from Tyler Adams, who was sent in alone by Kljestan.
Just before the hour mark New York would double their lead when Adams sent a through ball in between Aaron Maund and Tim Parker to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who raced 25 yards before chipping the ball over a defenseless and defenceless Ousted.
Vancouver started to show some signs of life at that point but were punished once again in the 72nd minute when Kljestan, after having his pass blocked, was able to poke the ball to the top of the box where Felipe fired a blast that deflected off a Whitecap and past the helpless ‘Caps keeper.
The scoreline had the potential to be even more one sided if it weren’t for the efforts of Ousted, who was forced to make two big stops in the final three minutes of injury time.
With the loss, the Whitecaps failed to clinch a top two spot in the West and the bye in the knockout round that that would provide, but they remain in top spot with a slightly reduced three point lead now over Sporting Kansas City, who drew tonight at Minnesota United.
Vancouver will now return home after the three game road trip next Sunday where they will welcome the return of Kendall Waston, Yordy Reyna, and Christian Bolanos as they host the San Jose Earthquakes in their final regular season game at BC Place. Three points will guarantee the Whitecaps a top two finish, and if other results next weekend go their way, a first Western Division regular season crown could also be secured.
FINAL SCORE: New York Red Bulls 3 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
NEW YORK: Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Damien Perrinelle; Tyler Adams, Felipe, Connor Lade; Sean Davis (Alex Muyl 59), Sacha Kljestan, Danny Royer (Gonzalo Verón 69); Bradley Wright-Phillips (Vincent Bezecourt 80) [Substitutes not used: Ryan Meara, Muhamed Keita, Sal Zizzo, Dilly Duka]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Aaron Maund, Tim Parker, Marcel de Jong (Nicolás Mezquida 54); Aly Ghazal; Jake Nerwinski, Tony Tchani, Alphonso Davies (Bernie Ibini 65), Jordan Harvey; Fredy Montero, Erik Hurtado (Brek Shea 65) [Substitutes not used: Spencer Richey, Sheanon Williams, Russell Teibert, Nosa Igiebor]
Obviously a very disappointing result. What did you make of it tonight?
“Yeah, we were slightly off it from the first whistle. We were a yard behind. We weren’t our usual self. We didn’t have energy. Credit to New York. They started very brightly. They took it as a playoff game. Obviously the first goal is always crucial. They managed to get it and then we were chasing the game a little bit. Overall, a bad night, but there were some positives out of it.”
You tried to defend their formation to start. What did you take away from it?
“Well, we had done it at certain times this year and it’s worked. Today we thought it gave us the best opportunity and we got caught in between. We only had one day to work at it, obviously after Kansas City last week. So you know, it’s my responsibility that, as a coach, when you put a team out or a formation out, and we changed it at halftime. We looked a lot better. But if you give bad goals away and you give opportunities and you’re not sharp and fresh, which we weren’t, against a good team, you’re always going to pay. And today we paid.”
Thoughts on the subs and their impact
“They did a little subset. Nico is banged up in there but he brought energy to the game and he was disappointed he didn’t start the game; in hindsight, it’s a wonderful thing, that maybe I should have. Subset, we went in, we played, made an impact when they come on, and that’s what you want substitutes to do. So even at 3-0, we didn’t go under, which is really important but it was a bad day at the office.”
Do you think the continued progression for Aly Ghazal?
“Yeah, he did the jobs very well. I think in football, fundamentals are very key, and today, I don’t think we’ve done the fundamentals very well or good enough. Aly did. Aly was breaking up plays and playing simple and doing that; and when you’re behind by one or two goals which we were, the pitch seems bigger and it seems longer. They are a good passing team. Credit to them today. Obviously we’re disappointed but we’ll get back to work next week.”
Are you looking for a similar bounce back performance next week, similar to KC after Seattle?
“Listen we lost one game of football. If you would have said between Kansas City and New York, we were going to win one game and lose, you know, you probably would have snapped your hand off because it’s difficult to play away from home. So we have to take that on the chin. It wasn’t our day today. We know we need to be better individually and collectively, but we’ll get four or five players back after the national break, which will be key, as well. And I know we didn’t talk about those plays missing in the start because I’ve got confidence in my squad. Today it didn’t quite work.”
On the Result
“It’s a little bit slow, a little bit soft. I don’t think we came out the way we really anticipated on it coming out and how we played in Kansas City I think. It was kind of a different team tonight and ultimately we’ve just got to put this behind us and start looking forward to next week.”
On What He’s Learned From Tonight’s Performance
“We’ve got to be strong on the road, we’ve got to be tough, we’ve got to be hard to break down. I think we gave them a little bit tonight.”
On Areas Vancouver Could Have Done Better
“I think just getting tighter, putting more pressure on the ball and making them make difficult choices I think would’ve been better for us.”
On Coming Back to Play in New York
“One of the Red Bull coaches coached me growing up. Long Island gave me the mentality that I took with me to get to this level. St. John’s molded me into the defender I am, gave me a lot of qualities that I hold a lot of value for.”
On Family Coming Out to Watch Him Play
“I had about 150 family and friends. It’s an honor to play when I come home back to New York because a lot of people don’t get to see me play that often. It’s always nice to come home and get them to see me.”
MARCEL DE JONG
On Tonight’s Match
“We’re disappointed, obviously. We came here with the intention to win but unfortunately, its’s not the result we wanted and not the performance we wanted. We’ve got to keep going.”
On Areas the Team Could’ve Improved in
“I think all the lines, front line, midfield, back line, were all a step too late. That’s what killed us today. But, credit to New York. They did well, they played very well.”
NEW YORK RED BULLS
I’m sure the year didn’t play out quite as easily as you thought it would, but just being able to get to this point now with two games in hand, being able to focus on things, how important was tonight, especially in light of the September you had?
“Yes, September was difficult for us and disappointing. You know, we were all disappointed with the results. But we continued to feel that we were playing well, and it was just a matter of time before we were going to start to have it add up more. In terms of getting the result now, it’s good in terms of releasing some anxiety about making the playoffs, but the key for us will be to continue to have urgency and hunger to improve and play in meaningful matches because once playoffs come, you know, now it’s do-or-die time. So that will be key for us in the next few weeks.”
What is the feeling inside the locker room now, because finally you not just beat Vancouver but you beat them handily 3-0 after all the past matches. What’s the feeling like?
“In general, in general — take Vancouver out. But I think we’ve been dominating many performance games, we’ve been controlling many games but we’ve been walking away what feels like empty handed. Some of them were ties but walking away feeling like, how did we not get three points on the day. The key for me has been to continue to urge this group on and to have belief that even though the three points haven’t been coming; that we’re there and that we’re close and it’s just about a few little details. That’s what was very important about tonight is that we not only had a great start, we dominated a game for 90 minutes and we controlled almost every aspect of the game, and then we get a big win. So now it’s key for us to continue in that rhythm so that when the most meaningful matches come, we are really prepared and really ready.”
You mentioned about details. This was a game where you didn’t have one mistake. It was 18-3 in shots, nobody getting on goal, nobody making bad passes back — what was the focus this week, or last week and a half, or whatever?
“Yeah, I mean, I’ll be honest. I’ve been challenging our defenders, okay. I’ve been challenging them to perform at a higher level because we’ve made too many mistakes. You know, it’s key to have a supportive environment but it’s key to also be realists and we have had too many guys make too many mistakes back there that have cost us too much. And we felt like if we could shore that up; if we could find the right balance of personnel and performance in the back that the rest will take care of itself, because there’s a lot of good things happening. So you know, got three good performances from the guys at center back, and then I thought Tyler again was phenomenal, phenomenal, and Connor had another good performance, as well. So that’s going to be key. It’s going to be key for us too; shoring up the defense is going to be about how good our defenders are on the day and how many plays they can make.”
Tyler Adams, two assists on the night. If you could expand on his play a little bit, how he’s come along over the last month
“No, I mean — start with Sean. He got whacked a couple of times, and you could see it impacted his ability to move, and he was — you know you could see, also, he was dragging a little bit at half and he talked to us. We figured that was going to be a sub, and then once he got whacked a couple times, it made sense. Tyler. You know, it’s fun to see such a brave, talented young man grow up before your eyes, you know, and it’s been three years that we’ve seen him around here, and we’ve all I think — we all take a lot of pride in Tyler, and certainly we all believe in him in such a big way. To see how, right now, each performance gets bigger and bigger and bigger to the point where he’s the best player on the field almost every game he plays, right. Saying a lot about how far he’s come, and I think we’re only scratching the surface of what the ceiling will be.”
There may not be much to this, and you’ll let me know if there isn’t. Is there, I guess, psychological benefit in proverbially turning the page to September and playing this first game and every game post-October?
“The timing of the schedule to September — all of us were like, September’s over, September’s done. Time to move on; disappointment. Yeah, I agree with you. We turned the page, and I think now, looking forward, we think there are real possibilities here, right. We can’t get ahead of ourselves and we know that based on the way that September went that we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole for what the playoffs will be. But you know, I think this group will relish being the underdog. We’ve been the favorite. We’ve had the target on our back, and I think this is the kind of group that will enjoy having everybody think that they can’t achieve their goals. Yeah, we’re excited for the next few weeks.”
You were just talking about wanting to have your best group on the field for most of the time. Would you say this lineup was your best group?
“Well, the only — I think the guy that it factors in is Murillo. Obviously they had a tough game last night. It’s good to see the U.S. play so well. But we’ve got to figure out how Amir might fit in. And then, you know, the other one is that it’s hard not to start Gonzalo because he has such a major impact but he’s also so good off the bench. So yeah, we’ll have to get the balance right, and listen, we’re crossing our fingers that Aurelien can potentially get going here in the next couple weeks. We’ll see. We’ll see.”
On clinching the playoff spot:
“We don’t want to take our foot off of the pedal because this is a very good performance. I think we need to just stay focused and try to build off of this rather than pat ourselves on the back for making the playoffs. There might still be some things to play for in the last two games for seeding purposes and things like that so, yeah, keep the foot on the gas pedal.”
On being a lower seed in the playoffs:
“Well at the beginning of the season we had some hiccups. We talked that winning the East or winning the Supporters Shield was not a realistic goal this year with a lot of new young players that were going to play a lot of minutes and have a little bit of a learning curve. Me, Brad, and Luis talked about the pressure might be off as we get into the playoffs and we are a little bit of a lower seed. Obviously, I didn’t think we were going to end up being the sixth seed I thought we’d be a little bit higher than that but yes, the pressure is off in a small way that hopefully we can surprise some people and go on a run.”
On a nine-game winless streak:
SK: “Was it nine games?”
Reporter: “If you count the open cup.”
SK: “Wow. I mean we’ve got to count the Open Cup. It feels good, we talked in the locker room after the game that it feels good that the defense put up a shutout tonight. Jesse had challenged them a lot in the past couple of weeks, and rightfully so. We had been leaking too many goals on little mistakes. Very proud of them and very happy for them that they can build off of a very good performance.”
On Focusing on the Playoffs
“It’s always obviously a goal of the New York Red Bulls to get in the playoffs, and we’ve achieved that and now we’ve got to go further than we’ve been before. We have to all be ready for this fight that’s coming.”
On Being a Sneaky Team in the Playoffs
“I fall by that a million times this season already. I don’t want to jinx that, that obviously happens with hard work as well. No matter where we finish it’s going to be tough, but if the Gods are with us, hopefully we can be a Portland or Seattle.”
On Tyler Adams Developing into a Strong Player
“The boy is fearless. He’s a top player and that’s why he’s playing here. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough, and he’s proved that. He’s one of the players we count on now. For such a young guy, he takes that pressure and he enjoys it.”
On What the Focus is Now
“It’s momentum from here on. This was a good performance; we can live with this. This is a standard we need to be putting out every week. The next two games we need to show the same kind of grit and same kind of finish in our defending.”
On Tonight’s Defence
“The defense was great tonight. This week Jesse has really challenged each defender and all the goalkeepers to be different, to make a difference. In the beginning of the season, he did that to the attacking players because we weren’t getting goals but we’ve been scoring. So, now it’s on our end. The good thing about it is, it wasn’t as if it was just the defensive unit that took that personally. The entire team did, and it galvanized us going into this matchup. It’s no surprise that we were able to put together one of the most complete performances because, even after warmup, going onto the field there was a steely focus that was obvious within each member whether they were starting or on the bench. It felt like there was no way we were going to let this game go. From the very beginning we started strong. We didn’t give them many chances, we got a goal but then we continued through the second half and Jesse challenged us at half time to keep putting our foot on the gas pedal, keep scoring goals and not give anything up. If you look at the statistics, it says that. But, even from the eye you could see that it was a dominant performance. So, there’s some good momentum there but it’s only one step in the right direction and, the way that we see it, there’s still a lot of steps that we need to make to get to where we want to be.”
On Whether Vancouver Being One of the Red Bulls’ Toughest Opponents from the West
“Not necessarily, it’s something about the west that you don’t pay as much attention. Obviously, we played them in the beginning of the season in the Champions League but that seems like forever ago. I mean we’ve endured so much this season that trying to remember February is making me feel old. At the end of the day, we knew going against a good team that’s leading the Western Conference, that they were going to challenge us and we needed to stay on top of it. The one area that we felt if we could really dominate it was going to give us an opportunity to win this game, and that was our defense. You could see the way the defenders were engaged off the ball. It really allowed us great opportunities to attack and move forward. This is why we’re able to see the first and second goal, the way that they transpired. So, we got started form the back and moved our way quickly through the midfield. It’s because those guys were so aware, they put us on the front foot and we were able to catch them. For a team that defends the way that Vancouver does where they draw out very well, they defend as a unit, we knew it was going to be tough. If we could get them on the counter, if we could play that first pass forward it was going to give us the best chance to win.”
On the Team’s Performance
“I feel like today we put on one of our most complete performances, for sure.”
On the team performance today
“Yeah, as you said, really good team performance today, dangerous in the attack really solid in the defense. Shutout. Really good performance, I think definitely one of the best this season.”
On eliminating the mistakes today
“Yeah definitely. I mean we were spot on today. I think they didn’t really have any big chances today and we created a lot. We controlled the game; we had good possession, we were really good in passing today. Creative and I think all the things that it takes, all the things that we need and we showed our mentality, our philosophy and that paid off today, finally.”
On having a chip on the shoulder and pressure
“Yeah I mean we could have fixed it so much earlier. I mentioned it many times before that our working rate in all the games were really good and it didn’t really pay off, and it did today and I am really glad. That’s a big sign for a good team spirit that when you have a chip on your shoulder and you got some pressure that you can deal with it.”
On having the chemistry back with the guys after coming back from injury
“Yeah. That’s not really easy always. I know the guys are ready and I’m here now for more than a year. I know Sacha can play those balls. I just try to be dangerous and I just try to do what I always try to do. I think all the guys have been really dangerous and creative today, especially offensively, and yeah so it was easy for me as well. “