The New York Red Bulls went to the New England Revolution on Saturday with a rotated team from their 1-0 loss at the Philadelphia Union midweek, featuring a number of the team's younger talents in attack. Seven of the team's starters were 25 and under, with homegrown talent Omir Fernandez leading the way scoring the game's lone goal. The team came out with a 1-1 draw in a performance that was an improvement on the game against the Union.
"We knew we had a strong lineup, strong team, strong depth, and we knew we were a young team but we had a lot of hunger, a lot of passion, a lot of confidence," Fernandez said following the match. "We thought we just wanted to give it our all, honestly. We didn’t change our mindset."
Head coach Chris Armas spotlighted both Fernandez's performance and that of Ben Mines, who picked up his first MLS assist on Saturday. He said the two showed how they have grown as players, and noted how they helped break down the Revolution's defense.
"They’ve grown as young men who can physically hold up in games like that against an athletic team," Armas said. "As much as we knew that New England would be good in transition, we felt that we could catch them in transition with some guys on the field, and you can see that Ben Mines challenged them a few times and so did Omir."
Though many of the Red Bulls' starters are still fairly inexperienced, they were joined by veteran Kaku, who started for the first time since the MLS is Back Tournament. Armas praised his all around game against the Revolution, particularly in defense.
"I thought he put in a big effort," Armas said. "Defensively, he committed to what we were doing. I thought he understood the pressing tactics and those demands, so on the night."
Thought Kaku's minutes have been somewhat limited since the return of the MLS regular season, Armas insisted that the midfielder is essential when it comes to the Red Bulls' attacking plans.
"He brings so much of the imagination, creativity, and ideas in the final third and I thought he created a lot of little chances in that part of the field," Armas said. "He’s always looking forward. He’s always playing to win and he brings a passion.
"We’re going to keep pushing them in the final third," Armas added. "Can we get more plays right? Can we get a few more of these transition moments right, so it’s not one goal on the night or ten shots, whatever it is, it’s even more, and he is the guy we rely on for that, so we’re going to keep putting the ball in his hands, if you will."
The Red Bulls remain a work in progress, but the team was able to show off both its depth and its younger players against the Revolution, a positive during a regular season that will be taxing with a number of midweek games.
"If you went around the field a bit, you’d understand how proud we are of that effort to get a hard fought point against a good team in their building."