If things had turned out differently for the New York Red Bulls in their Sunday evening regional showdown with the New England Revolution, not many heads would have been turned.
In all reality, had the opposite of the Red Bulls’ 2-0 victory over the first-place Revs at Gillette Stadium occurred, it would have been hard to even blame New York.
They came into the game not only without World Cup-bound Australian international Tim Cahill, but also star forward Thierry Henry, defensive stalwart Jamison Olave, who typically sit out games played on turf, and injured midfielder Dax McCarty. To top it off, the Red Bulls hadn’t won in New England in a whopping 17 tries dating back to when they were the MetroStars – when current head coach Mike Petke was a player – and were winless in their last four on the season.
To say the least, all signs pointed toward a New England result. And that, they say, is why they play the games.
“This year, I thought this was possibly going to be our most difficult game up here,” Petke told the media in his postgame remarks. “Not only were we without players, but they’re a damn good team and they move the ball well. We had a lot of concerns about winning this game, to be honest with you. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to come up here and play. But they got it done tonight, so I am very proud of them.”
From the outset, it looked as though it would indeed be a tough go for New York – especially after Revs midfielder Patrick Mullins nearly scored 30 seconds in on a blast from outside the penalty box.
The Revolution outshot the Red Bulls 22-8 and held a 53-percent possession advantage. But the Red Bulls were opportunistic with their chances, finding goals through an Eric Alexander set-piece header in the 17th minute and a Peguy Luyindula insurance goal at the 76-minute mark.
“I’m extremely proud of my guys,” Petke said. “I told them before the game that there were going to be periods tonight that were not going to be pretty and that I’m absolutely fine with that as long as they put the work in and play for each other. That’s all I wanted, to be honest with you, at the end of the day. I was here the last time we won 10 years ago. I played in that game, so I am extremely proud of them tonight.”
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Of course, it helps when your goalkeeper has a stand-on-his-head performance. And that’s exactly what Luis Robles did, recording 10 saves en route to his third clean sheet of the season.
“First thing is, we have a great locker room,” Robles told the media. “[Not winning] four in a row you can start to point fingers at people, but that doesn’t happen here. The guys are very positive, and everyone believes in each other. That’s our belief we knew we could get three points this week and we did. We were lucky to get the first goal, which put us in a great spot and we played well after.”