Both professional New York Red Bulls teams had a fantastic week against expansion sides.

First, after five straight winless efforts, the New York Red Bulls of MLS finally got back to a winning formula as they beat FC Cincinnati, 1-0, at home on Saturday, April 27. Then a few days later on Wednesday, May 1, USL Championships’ top team in the eastern conference retained that title when New York Red Bulls II thrashed Birmingham Legion FC, 5-0, in what is currently the latter team’s worst defeat in their seven-game long history.

Overall, it’s good to be a fan of red.

The first team started the game as the better squad and ended it by holding on through FCC’s offensive push. It’s not hard to see the Bulls were overall the better group in the first half; taking nearly five times the amount of shots Cincy took (9 to 2), getting the first chance in the game when a cross just barely missed the feet of Brian White in front of the net seven minutes in, and of course Connor Lade scoring in the 38th minute.

Lade’s goal was a great team effort. Brian White found a long pass coming his way inside the 18-yard box, and laid his header off to Daniel Royer. The Austrian made a no-look pass behind his back to what initially looked like Marc Rzatkowski but Lade surged forward and tucked it under the crossbar from just inside the penalty box.

Lade, who is currently the longest-tenured member of the team dating back to his signing in 2011, hasn’t scored in MLS play since July 2016. After the match, though he was quick to remind everyone there he has scored in other places.

“You’re forgetting my Champions League goal,” Lade joked, referencing his goal against the Montreal Impact in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League. “ I definitely don’t score that often so when I do it’s always special. It was a great team goal and to be able to help the team win is special.”

Following the first half, Cincinnati began to play more physically and it showed with the visitors’ backline earning three yellow cards over the last 45, with two coming in the first six minutes. The change caught the Bulls off and soon the game began to shift, with FCC controlling possession in the second half (64% v. 36%) and getting more shots off (6 v. 3) including the only shot on target in the half. Three players from New York (Alex Muyl, Tim Parker, and Mathias Jørgensen) also earned yellows – with the latter’s coming late in stoppage time for what seemed like arguing.

“When you’re trailing in a game like Cincinnati you can start throwing a little more at the opposition,” head coach Chris Armas explained in the postgame press conference. “They parked more guys on our backline. Teams that are built on transition have fast and dynamic (players), guys that can take you on… There’s a natural push.”

In three separate instances, what looked like the equalizer banged off the goal’s woodwork and deflected back into play. The team’s official twitter, aware of the significance of the victory and the huge performance, named Lade and the goal itself “man” of the match.

Two Red Bull fans, Chris Worthington (left) and Adam Wellis, pose with their RBNY Autism Awareness scarves prior to Saturday’s game (Credit: Michael Battista)

The win couldn’t have come on a better night as well, with the team hosting Autism Awareness night for the fifth straight year. The event, which is partnered with the Autism Speaks Foundation, had simple yet noticeable changes across the stadium. From the lack of music outside prior to the game and subsequent volume being lowered inside the stadium, to the presence of blue on video screens and the kits the team was wearing.

When talking about the win itself, Armas couldn’t help but acknowledge how much more it meant because of the night it came on.

“Feels great,” he said. “Especially at home, to reward our fans on a special night with Autism awareness. Good energy in the building, it was loud. You see how hard the guys work every day, what the staff is putting in… Really special in so many ways.”

The win was also another milestone for the club as it now owns 100 wins at Red Bull Arena. Since opening in 2010, RBNY has one of the best home records in MLS with the triple-digit amount of wins and 331 points.

Only 15 miles north and four days latter, the New York USL Championship affiliate continued it’s stellar season start with a huge win at Montclair State University Soccer Park. In eight games the team has a record of 6-1-1 (19 pts) and currently sits atop the eastern conference of the league.

The team’s opponent, Birmingham Legion FC, is one of seven expansion sides that joined the league this season. This surge was two-fold, helping grow the league in new markets while also replacing departing clubs like Cincinnati and the three that moved to USL League One (Division III).

Jørgensen scored his second and third goals for the RBNY brand in the second half. To start, he got behind and outran the Birmingham defense before finishing a pass from Derrick Etienne Jr. in the 57th minute. His second came in the 81st off a quick-thinking rebound.

“I am growing more and more every day,” Jørgensen said. “From the training pitch to the match pitch, I am growing every time I come onto the pitch. Of course, I am happy to help the team with two goals, but I think in a game like this one, the two goals are okay, and I helped my teammates, but I can help my teammates more in a game like this.”

Other goal scorers included Derrick Etienne, Sean Nealis, and Tom Barlow. Etienne opened the scoring after latching on to a wayward pass and Nealis finished off an Andres Ivan corner kick early in the second half.

The curtain call though was when Barlow, who was subbed on late in the half, redirected a long kick into the net to cap off scoring for his team. Through the first quarter of the season the St. Louis native leaders the second division with eight goals.

The stat sheet would make this seem like an even game if the scoreline was ignored. But with short rest, the group of Nealis, Jordan Scarlett, Allen Yanes, and Edgardo Rito played a phenomenal game minus some early chances from the Alabama side. Despite allowing the most goals (9) early on in the year for a team in the East’s top five, the group may have turned a corner and locked down where it needs to.

The New York Red Bulls of MLS stay at home this Saturday to play Zlatan Ibrahimović and the LA Galaxy while RBNY II hits the road to face the Ottawa Fury on Wednesday, May 8 for a 10:30 AM game. The organizations’ amateur, USL League Two affiliate New York Red Bulls U-23 will also be in important action in the coming days, participating in the First Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The team will be playing FC Motown of the National Premier Soccer League on Tuesday, May 7, at Montclair State.

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