John Tolkin celebrates after scoring the New York Red Bulls’ second goal against D.C. United in the Fourth Round of the 2022 US Open Cup (Credit: New York Red Bulls)

The New York Red Bulls win over D.C. United, 3-0, in Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup match might be more important than it seems. The team’s seventh straight road win in 2022 across all competitions puts New York in the Round of 16 of the competition. Not only that, but the team’s ability to perform under the conditions it did could set a positive precedent.

The names that scored those three goals are the first sign of that. Brazilian designated player Luquinhas led the way with the opening goal in first half stoppage time. He assisted John Tolkin on his team’s second minutes into the second half. The final score came from substitute Zach Ryan, whose first touch of the ball ended with his first professional goal.

Head coach Gerhard Struber was happy following the result and thinks the team’s performance demonstrates how stable the roster is. His commitment to putting a consistent level of play on the field, no matter who on the roster is player, is something the Austrian coach is continuing to develop.

“Today I think was some similar game ideas coming together and you can see many aerial duels, many counter-pressing, many pressing moments, and we can see not much control in this game,” he explained. “In the end, I think we are very stable in our defense structure, in our behavior, and I think this realized in the end the win. We were good in some transition moments, we were sharp when we have the one-on-one chance and we can see how important Luquinhas is for us to create overload moments, to create the right passes, and then we can see how easy it is to score.”

Struber’s commitment to playing a fully fledged team on short notice was commendable. Furthermore, as the game progressed the Austrian and his team made conscious decisions to bring in non-typical players. Normally, that might detract from a team’s performance but New York still looked the better team for the entire match.

Despite the short turnaround the Bulls looked competent and fleshed out against United. Granted, D.C.’s roster at Audi Field was not at full strength. Three players in the home side’s starting XI were callups from Loudon United, D.C.’s reserved team. The heavy rotation favored New York who came into the match with a semi-normal starting eleven. The only major change came in the form of Ryan Meara playing in net in place of Carlos Coronel. Daniel Edelman also picked up his first start with RBNY but he’d been getting decent minutes as a substitute already.

“You can see a team is not 11 or 18 players, a team is 20 or 25 players, especially in a situation like that with so many games in a row. I think it is important that we have to use all the players that are available and I think all the new faces on the field today show me, yeah, they are talents. They can help the team in situations like that and yeah, I have a very good feeling right now.”

On the field, New York came out of the gate slow against United despite looking good in transition. The 4-2-3-1 formation of familiar faces controlled the pace of play while the home side struggled to get any traction going when it, rarely, got the ball. To give credit, D,C,’s much younger team held back the Bulls for nearly the entire first half.

It’s double impressive considering team captain Aaron Long was subbed off ten minutes in. Struber said this was due to “tightness in the calf” and is hopeful the USMNT player will be ready for this weekend. However, New York needed little time to adjust after a main shot caller was removed for the much less experienced Lucas Monzon.

New York’s growing possession game took hold in the final 15 minutes. Dru Yearwood started the sequence two minutes into stoppage time from midfield and no-looked a pass to Luquinhas. The attacking mid connected with a slide to get the shot past DC keeper Rafael Romo to take the lead.

That’s where the game really started to change. After Tolkin scored in the 48th minute, both he and Luqinhas were subbed off shortly after. Bringing on Jason Pendant and the debuting Jesús Castellano in the 57th minute, the game really didn’t change. New York tightened it’s formation and passes became much shorter, but the overall result remained the same. D.C. was unable to get deep possessions into New York’s end. In total, the home side only got five shots off with Meara only needing to make one save.

Castellano’s and winger Cameron Harper, who made a surprise return as a sub in the second half, both exemplified this short, shotgun style. If Lewis Morgan is known for speed and long crosses into the box than the Scottish-American winger is good for cutbacks and getting into the box. His cut found Ryan in the 68th minute with the reserve team regular notching his first professional goal.

Edelman, who played the full 90 in his first MLS start, told media after the game that every player made sure everyone was comfortable. No matter which person came on or came off, they instructed him in the middle of the field and told him where to see the ball going.

“It was definitely a difficult first half I think for us. Too many long balls, we didn’t really get any control in those second balls,” the homegrown explained. “I think as the game went on, we definitely handled ourselves really well. The goal right before half from Luquinhas set us up well to start off the second half and then stay on them.”

New York returns to Harrison this Saturday when they face I-95 for Philadelphia Union. The Union are coming off a defeat in the Open Cup to Orlando City SC, 2-1, on Tuesday night. The Bulls are still seeking their first home win this season in Major League Soccer. However, the team is second in the Eastern Conference (behind Philly) and fifth in the league overall.


Did you miss out on getting a John Tolkin x Star Wars themed bobblehead last weekend at Red Bull Arena? Do you want the chance to take home a sweet sculpture of RBNY’s Open Cup hero in Mandalorian gear? Then check out the tweet below for a chance to win one from New York Sports Nation!


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