But the game turned on its head in the 29th minute when Alejandro Pozuelo was shown a straight red card after Video Review’s inspection, a retroactive decision when referee Fotis Bazakos had initially shown the Designated Player a yellow card.
The Spanish midfielder went studs up into Andres Reyes’ chest, tracking the ball but planting his cleat onto the sponsor logo of the RBNY center back’s jersey.
From there on out, New York scored three unanswered goals and secured a 3-1 home victory as US youth international midfielders Daniel Edelman and Caden Clark pulled the hosts ahead during the second half. While there was some controversy around Pozuelo’s dismissal, Miami head coach Phil Neville didn’t dispute the call.
“I don’t know if you remember Manchester United vs. Real Madrid, Nani, the ball was coming over his head,” Neville said, recalling the former Orlando City SC star. “He didn’t see the defender and his foot was up there. I thought a yellow card would’ve been probably – I have no complaints with the red because obviously, the foot was up, but I thought it was purely innocent.
“But I suppose I think if you’ve played football, you’d know these things. The ball was coming over his head, he didn’t see [Reyes] there. But I mean, no complaints with the red card.”
Pozuelo’s first-half exit also elicited some memories of when former LA Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong wasn’t sent off in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, memorably kicking Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso in the chest when competing for his native Holland.
But as Neville noted, moments change games.
“There was a period in the game up until the sending-off where I thought we played really well,” the Englishman noted. “We controlled the game, we created chances, we were the dominant team, and it was always going to be difficult 10 v 11.”
New York finished the game with 10 men as well, as fullback Kyle Duncan was shown a second yellow card in the 70th minute. But the damage was done and the Herons’ five-game unbeaten streak was snapped, all as RBNY stayed at fourth place on the Eastern Conference table.
“We deserve this win,” Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber said postgame. “It was necessary to win at home. I'm very happy for the fans, for my boys, that we can celebrate together a win. We left everything on the field. I can see a big commitment from my boys today, and I think it was the first step in a better direction, also, at home.”
The Red Bulls moved to 4W-5W-5L at home this year, benefitting greatly from Pozuelo’s premature exit.
“It really suited us, getting balls in the box and making those runs down the line,” Clark said. “You know, it's kind of what we do. So I think it kind of shifted the game definitely and we created a lot of chances off of it."