The New York Red Bulls put in a terrific team effort, defeating the Chicago Fire in the opening match of the MLS Cup Playoffs behind Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright Phillips.
The sixth-seeded Red Bulls proved to be too much for the Fire, winning 4-0 over a side that limped into the playoffs with a number of key players injured and recovering from their Decision Day defeat at the hands of the Houston Dynamo.
The Red Bulls wasted no time finding the back of the net. Bradley Wright-Phillips once again led the line for the Red Bulls, beating the Fire’s backline on a lofted pass from Damien Perrinelle. Matt Lampson attempted to play the ball, but fumbled it, and it bounced back off of Wright-Phillips, allowing the striker to easily finish into the open net in the seventh minute.
Not to be outdone, Sacha Kljestan doubled the lead for the Red Bulls just four minutes later. Tyler Adams received the ball on the right side of the field, bought an inch of space and fired in the cross. The Red Bulls captain finished with a delicate touch in the 11th minute.
The Red Bulls dominated the opening ten minutes of play, leaving the Fire shell-shocked though the home side did manage to gain control of possession and create some opportunities. Dax McCarty was key to the Fire on the night, winning balls in the midfield and helping his side gain a foot hold in the match, but poor finishing doomed the home side.
Nemanja Nikolic, the MLS Golden Boot winner had a couple of good chances to pull one back for the Fire, but failed to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded him. At halftime, the result seemed all but certain as the Fire’s body language was that of a defeated team.
In an effort for the home side to gain control of the match, the oft-injured Bastian Schweinsteiger entered the in the 65th minute. His inclusion proved to be too little, too late.
Daniel Royer helped put the match to bed in the 70th minute with a spinning finish. Sean Davis recovered the ball in the Fire’s half, and forced the ball into Royer in the box. Royer took a touch, spun around, then fired past a helpless Lampson.
As the Fire continued to push for a goal that might see them back into the match, the Red Bulls exposed them once again through the pace and skill of Gonzalo Veron. Kljestan chipped the backline to find Veron running in alone. The third year Designated Player chipped Lampson from the top of the box to round out the scoring on the night.
The Red Bulls are now a perfect 3-0 in knockout round play in the MLS playoffs, but they have a very difficult road ahead welcoming Toronto FC in the semi-final round next week.
Man of the Match
Sacha Kljestan came up big when the Red Bulls needed him to, helping seal the match with his goal in the 11th minute.
Moment of the Match
Bradley Wright-Phillips’ opener was a shot through the heart for the Fire faithful, and the team never fully recovered from it.
Match to Forget
Nemanja Nikolic scuffed a number of great chances, something he has not done much of this year, and kept the Fire from climbing back into the match.