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Tom Edwards (blue) battled D.C. United's Edison Flores (white) for the ball during their team's match at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, May 28, 2022 (Credit: Ira L Black/D.C. United)
Tom Edwards (blue) battled D.C. United’s Edison Flores (white) for the ball during their team’s match at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, May 28, 2022 (Credit: Ira L Black/D.C. United)

It took three months but the New York Red Bulls have a home win in Major League Soccer play. The 4-1 result over Atlantic Cup rivals D.C. United comes just before the team heads into an international break. Currently, New York sits at 23 points and forth in the Eastern Conference.

“We are in a very good place in the moment,” head coach Gerhard Struber said after the game. “Yeah, (it) looks nice. Looks good. But we know we stay humble. The league show us how close is everything, and what you have to invest in every game that you can create in the end a win.”

The turning-point of the match came at the start of the second half. To demonstrate how uneventful the first 45 minutes were, just look at the official highlights. The nearly eight minute video only has 40 seconds of video from that section (and that one play is a DC free kick in the 40th minute).

New York was sporting the Adidas x Parley 2022 Primeblue kit while DC came out in the white version. Fans were eager to grab one as lines stretched across the stadium from the Bull Shop. If they waited on the line during the first half though, they probably made the right choice. Neither team looked convincing and New York’s forwards were quite. Patryk Klimala and Luquinhas both struggled to get under passes.

Even if United’s defense looked good, it took visiting fans 25 minutes before they started to fill the Supporter’s section. Whether that was due to increased security or traffic is unclear.

After that half, Struber elected to flood the midfield with players to try and overpower United. That included a rare halftime substitute where captain Aaron Long came off for Omir Fernandez.

When asked about the decision, Struber noted Long’s previous injuries and his work during the mid-week open cup match. With that game being on turf, plus with the defender heading off to U.S. national team cap, his workload was being managed.

It worked out tremendously though. Brazilian Luquinhas scored two great goals that all benefited from the more frantic pace. Lewis Morgan’s curving shot in the 54th minute from the right side was headed off the goal line by a defender. The loose ball was found by Frankie Amaya, whose subsequent shot hit off goalkeeper Bill Hamid and back into play. The Brazilian ran up and shot low and to the keeper’s right to get New York ahead, 1-0.

Seeing that his team was causing United trouble, Struber’s players kept up the pace. For every chance New York got into the opposing end the defenders needed time to get the ball out. An extra play or a few extra seconds. The right player in the right place could cause untold amounts of damage against a team wallowing at the bottom of the conference table.

For the second time that night Luquinhas was that player. Four minutes after his first goal, a long Cristian Casseres ball looking for John Tolkin in the box was headed back towards the top of the box. The attacker slid down to intercept and scissors kicked the ball in the direction opposite his momentum, floating the shot into the top right corner.

Tom Edwards and Struber’s shocked reactions spoke a thousand words. But the manager’s comments after the game said enough about his player’s performance on the night.

“I’m very, very happy with Luquinhas in so many directions,” Struber said. “He can create with his passing moments, with his intelligent position, special moments what is not protectable and also he surprised me sometimes when he comes towards and he goes forward and how he works against the ball. I think this is not the typical Brazilian player sometimes.”

That wasn’t even the last scissor kick New York would make a goal with during the game! After his shot early in the half got headed off the line Morgan made up for it in the 63rd. After a New York corner, yet another weak United clearance attempt saw the ball coming toward the former Celtic winger. Lifting his left leg, he met the ball from 20 yards out and slammed a shot home towards the opposite right post. Hamid’s dive wasn’t enough to keep it out making it 3-0 RBNY.

United got a goal back in the 87th when Ola Kamara tapped in a good cross from the right side to ruin Carlos Coronel’s clean sheet. The Brazilian failed to save the one shot the visitors had on goal all game. Though New York got one more tally when second half substitute Tom Barlow took advantage of United’s high press. His shot was aided by a sliding United player, with the ball subsequently hitting off the crossbar. United’s Tony Alfaro either tried to avoid the loose ball in front of the empty net or failed to clear it. Instead, it hit off him and into the goal for New York’s fourth.

While officially an own goal, Barlow was already coming off a goal as a late substitute during the mid-week U.S. Open Cup game.

“We put a show on tonight,” Barlow said in a post-match press conference. “And hopefully we can build on that after the international break and come out and bang a couple more goals in.”

In statistical talk, this is the first time New York has scored four goals in one half since June 1, 2019. That game (against Real Salt Lake) also had all four in the second half and included an own goal.

The Bulls enter the international break with only a handful of players heading out for national team duty. With plenty of stars injured, including Cameron Harper and the still-yet-to-play Andrés Reyes, multiple members of the team hope the break will allow everyone to heal up. The next match will be another game against Charlotte FC on June 11 in North Carolina. The team then returns home on June 18 when struggling Toronto FC comes to Harrison.

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