HARRISON, N.J. – After back-to-back wins over their Gotham neighbors, the Red Bulls have proven to be the kings of New York.
Mere days after a convincing league win over New York City FC on Sunday night, the Red Bulls defeated the New York Cosmos 4-1 in the US Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday night, earning a measure of revenge for their loss to the NASL side in last year's edition of this tournament.
The Red Bulls came out with a surprising amount of energy given their short amount of rest, as they employed their trademark high-press system and were rewarded early. Unlike last season’s encounter that saw the Cosmos strike within 10 minutes, it was the Red Bulls who would draw first blood this time.
Returning to the lineup after sustaining ankle and groin injuries in their last Open Cup match against the Atlanta Silverbacks, Lloyd Sam made his return to the starting lineup and made an immediate impact. The winger’s run down the right flank ended with a cross that found Sal Zizzo unmarked at the far post for a simple header to put the Red Bulls on top in the 5th minute.
The Cosmos found the equalizer in the 16th minute. In an attacking move that started through a clearance from their goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, midfielder Walter Restrepo collected the ball and made an incisive run towards the Red Bulls penalty area. RBNY defender Matt Miazga cut out his initial pass, but the botched clearance fell perfectly for Cosmos forward Lucky Mkosana, who beat goalkeeper Luis Robles to level the match.
After trading jabs for the remainder of the half, the Red Bulls found themselves back on top minutes before the halftime whistle. After showing his prowess on set pieces against NYCFC, Sacha Kljestan reclaimed his duties on Wednesday night, assisting yet another Red Bulls goal. After earning a corner in the 42nd minute, Kljestan whipped in a cross towards the penalty spot, where Anatole Abang rose up over former Red Bull Hunter Freeman to head home the go-ahead goal.
The second 45 minutes saw the Cosmos introduce star striker Raul, and the former Real Madrid man nearly found his way onto the score sheet just minutes after his entry. Another misplay at the back, this time from defender Damien Perrinelle, nearly gifted the Cosmos a goal as Leo Fernandes played a clever one-two with the Spaniard, but the final ball was just out of his reach.
The Red Bulls would extend their lead from the penalty spot in the 54th minute. Defender Hunter Gorskie made a risky challenge in the area, taking down Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall. Kljestan made no mistake from 12 yards out, sending his spot kick straight down the middle to beat a sprawling Maurer.
A crazy sequence saw the Cosmos twice denied by the post in the 63rd minute. Finding a bit of space in the area, Raul sent a header crashing off the crossbar. The ensuing rebound fell to Mkosana, who fired his shot off the far post, as Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese could only look on and laugh at his side’s misfortune.
As the match drew to a close, Long Island native Mike Grella put the match out of reach with a bit of individual brilliance. The winger sent Gorskie the wrong way with a slick dribbling move before slamming his low effort off the far post and into the back of the net.
With the win, the Red Bulls are now 3-0-0 against New York-based clubs in 2015.
Next up for the Red Bulls in Open Cup play: a date with the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena. But first, New York return to league play on Independence Day as they visit Columbus Crew SC (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).