By RYAN TOLMICH
HARRISON, N.J.– Despite being down both a man and a goal heading into the halftime break, the New York Red Bulls were going to make major improvements heading out of the halftime break.
“I can’t remember word for word,” said midfielder Lloyd Sam on the halftime atmosphere, “but they were pretty strong words from the manager, which we needed. In the second half with 10 men, I remember thinking that they think the game is won and that we’re going to surprise them.”
The Red Bulls were able put together quite the surprise with Dax McCarty and Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring a goal each to pick up a 2-1 victory over the visiting Revs.
The game started off with a bit of controversy, as it took less than two minutes for Revs forward Charlie Davies to earn a booking for simulation. Davies was dragged down in the corner of the Red Bull box as the Revs bench shouted for a penalty. The referee saw differently, issuing Davies a yellow.
Davies rebounded just 18 minutes later by opened opening the scoring via a wide open header. Fellow forward Teal Bunbury’s cross from the right side was deflected towards the backpost, where a predatory Davies was open and waiting to head home for an easy finish. Davies’ finish was his first goal for any team since September 10, 2011.
The Red Bulls’ quest back into the game took a major hit in first half stoppage time, when Miazga was sent off after a collision with New England’s Lee Nguyen. Nguyen was down on the field for a few moments, but the Revs midfielder remained in the game. Meanwhile, the referee issued Miazga a red, ending the 19-year-old defender’s night.
“It was just an immature decision on my part,” Miazga said after the game. “I should have stayed back. There was no reason for me to put that tackle in… I’ve got to learn from my mistakes.”
Down a man and a goal heading into halftime, New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke adjusted formations, switching to a diamond in an effort to force the Revs to play through the middle.
The switch paid dividends nearly immediately, as the hosts equalized just two minutes into the second half via a spectacular chip from McCarty.
After receiving a pass from Eric Alexander, McCarty took a chance at chipping the out-of-position Bobby Shuttleworth from long distance. The ensuing shot drifted just up and over the Revs goalkeeper, as McCarty’s fantastic finish tied things at one.
“You could tell that we started the second half very brightly,” said McCarty, “and you could tell it took the wind out of their sales a little bit. It was certainly a defining moment in the game and in the second half.”
“It’s a killer,” said Davies. “I think everyone knows when you’re up at halftime, the first 10 minutes are the most important for the rest of the match… It was unfortunate because it was an amazing goal. That’s up for goal of the season. That was class.”
Wright-Phillips pushed the Red Bulls into the lead with a 64th minute finish that sent the energized Red Bull Arena crowd into a frenzy. The 29-year-old found himself on the receiving end of a chipped pass from fellow Englishman Sam towards the corner of the Revolution box, where Wright-Phillips corralled the ball before taking on Revs defender A.J. Soares.
Wright-Phillips proceeded to cut to his left past a helpless Soares before finishing with a left-footed curler into the far post for his league-leading 18th goal of the season.
“I just knew that (Soares) was quite tight to me, so I thought, if it cut back, he’s either going to get lucky and it’s going to come off his leg and if not, I’ll get by him and I did. There’s been times when I’ve tried that and it didn’t come off, but tonight I got lucky and it was a decent finish.”
The goalscoring combination was enough to impress one of the game’s most prolific scorers, Thierry Henry, who praised the duo after the game.
“Lloyd played that ball ever so well today,” Henry said after the game. “Bradley, the way he took that in, because it’s not like the ball was a tap in. He had to cut back inside and finish with his left. That’s a world-class finish. I can tell you that… It was a great pass and an amazing finish.”
Red Bulls substitute Peguy Luyindula nearly made it three unanswered with just minutes left in the game, but the Frenchman’s shot from an Henry pass caromed off the post and out. However, McCarty and Wright-Phillips’ finishes proved to be all that was necessary, as the Red Bulls held on for the come-from-behind victory.
After the game, Petke issued his team high praise, especially for their performance in the game’s second stanza.
“The second half tonight was perhaps, and this is saying a lot because of our success last year, the best half in my time as a head coach and we were a man down,” Petke said. “It followed, I cannot remember a worse performance in a first half that I have ever seen, aside from my six year old’s team, to be very blunt. I’m being blunt because I’m proud of them and in awe almost, in a small way, of being a man down and bossing them in the second half like that.”
“I will say this: if we show up and play like we did in the second half the rest of the year, I like our odds to go very far.”
With the victory, the Red Bulls extend their unbeaten streak to three games and jump past the Revs into playoff position. The Red Bulls will now look towards a trip to an August 10 Toyota Park where they will take on the Chicago Fire.
Meanwhile, the Revs, who picked up their first win in eight league games last time out, will have to wait two weeks for their next game, where they will host the Portland Timbers.