The New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution stand together in a moment of silence ahead of their match on Saturday, September 10, to mark the 21st anniversary of the September 11th attacks (Credit: Michael Battista)

It’s interesting that the New York Red Bulls win, 2-1, over the New England Revolution feels out of place. Despite having a four game unbeaten streak in August, winning in general still feels unexpected at times. Perhaps that’s also due to the manner in which New York took home three points.

Cristian Cásseres Jr. and Lewis Morgan both scored in the final 45 minutes after the visitors went up just after the break. In was a rare moment where the Bulls were the team coming from behind. Many times this season early game scores have been undone by second half collapses. Being on the other end is always a positive experience, but doubly so after so many occurrences this season.

“I think we deserve in the end a win with outstanding attitude, with a big belief in everything and I think we dominated most of the time,” head coach Gerhard Struber said after the game. “We can see how much power they have in transition in some moments and also how clean they can — when someone is not ready to shift in the right moment. Yeah, this is one time and we can see what can happen. 

“We know we don’t clinch today the playoffs but I think the day must come that we jump out. It’s also the first step but now is not the time to relax. It’s more we have to regroup and we will win, then it’s clear we will clinch the playoffs and we will have also in the end a good slot on the table. We want the home game”

The win moves the team’s playoff magic number to one. Meaning this weekend’s Hudson River Derby against New York City FC is even more important than normal.

Looking back on Saturday though, the game itself didn’t feel all that different than the typical type of match RBNY has had this season. In fact, with Dru Yearwood out serving a four game suspension due to his actions last game, the Starting XI felt in-line with what had been used in early 2022. The only exceptions to this were Daniel Edelman and Andrés Reyes being in, while Patryk Klimala continues to sit out with an injury.

The 3-4-3 formation worked well in the first half. Officially John Tolkin was a midfielder for this match. However, he spent a lot of time on the three man back line. It was a stark difference since he didn’t feel as much of a threat up top. In fact for the first half neither did Lewis Morgan. The ball strung through the midfield and was played out of the back a lot more.

Like Struber alluded to, his team had possession of the ball for much of the first half. New York’s strength was build-up while New England tried to take advantage of fast breaks to counter. However, where New York struggled was getting shots on target. The same issue that the team has had all season.

Only 60 seconds in New York did get a shot but it was covered easily by Dorde Petrovic. In the 19th minute, a long chip pass up the middle was aimed for Elias Manoel. Instead it got past him, his covering defender and Petrovic. The ball rolled into the right post and back into play where it was hectically cleared.

New York’s offense remained relatively quiet while also keeping the ball away from New England. For their part, the Revolution are still fighting to get into the playoffs this fall. The type of team that has a reason to go all out. Or at least build to something big.

That moment came in the 53rd minute. Thomas McNamara redirected a long pass from Gustavo Bou near the center of the box past Carlos Coronel. It almost felt too perfect. Three of McNamara’s four goals have been scored on the road this season. New York struggles at home. The team was collapsing in the second half for a variety of reasons. Yet again “Bittersweet Symphony” would blare from the speakers come full time.

Instead New York stayed the path. At the start of the second half, before McNamara’s goal, Morgan was part of two attempted offensive drives. The first was cut-off before he could get the ball past the defense in the 48th minute. Just before the goal, he and Luquinhas got the ball into the box but couldn’t get shots.

When Cásseres broke through the middle of the box it didn’t feel normal. When he passed to Elias Manoel in the box and ran in, the ball looked fumbled. The Venezuelan national team player recovered it and ran between the Revs line. He shot low, bounding the ball and getting it past Petrovic to tie the game in the 58th.

If expectations were low, maybe Luquinhas’ called back go-ahead goal not long after put things back there. In the 64th minute, New England’s Henry Kessler attempted to clear the ball from the box. His kick hit off the Brazilian’s arm and back into play, where he scored through traffic. A quick VAR check, something novel in itself, called the goal back.

Fans in the stadium were booing, sure. But some of the faces almost seemed like they expected it. The ball had clearly gone off Luquinhas’ arm. New York isn’t the kind of team to come back from going behind. Things seemingly remained on course. Tom Barlow entered the match early in the 61st minute. Struber is obviously still confident in the forward’s ability but many still distrust him. So in the 75th minute it looked like the biggest moment was when he and Caden Clark, another sub, failed to communicate on a loose ball.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t see the uncalled foul by McNamara, who pulled down Morgan by the back of his jersey. The VAR check a minute later was met with quiet from most of the Arena. But the resulting penalty kick was awarded. Morgan stepped up to the spot and slotted in the ball. Petrovic’s sudden jolt in the opposite direction was all he could muster against the attempt.

The Revolution’s best attempt to salvage a point came in stoppage time. A free kick into the box was headed out, but fell to Andrew Farrell. His shot from the top of the box was on target but deflected out of play by the New York wall of men.

“It was a great night for us,” RBNY captain Aaron Long told the media afterwards. “We knew there was a lot on the line for them, we knew they were going to come out with a high intensity and we were going to have to weather that storm. For them to score first and us to have to battle back and show a lot of resilience and get a win at home for the fans and for ourselves. It put us that much closer to being in the playoff picture and hopefully we can choose our own destiny to get into the top four. It was a massive game for both teams, so to come out with a win tonight especially after going down was big time.”

Overall, three points at this stage of the season is what the team needs. Many fans admittedly don’t want a home playoff game considering the record in Harrison. But regardless of superstition the team winning games is always good. Especially a come from behind win against last year’s Shield winners. But still things felt the same. Free kicks and corners never felt dangerous. The midfield focused more on the middle than the wings early on, but still attempts on goal were lacking.

Instead these worries will need to be put aside for the grand picture. NYCFC is waiting this coming weekend following an upset lose of their own against Charlotte. If New York wins they will clinch a 13th straight MLS Cup Playoff appearance. A feat that wasn’t as in doubt as it was last season. Yet still considering the summer struggles was always never guaranteed.

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