HARRISON, N.J. – It was all there for the taking for the New York Red Bulls. Perhaps that’s what makes the loss so painful.
Entering the US Open Cup this year, head coach Jesse Marsch was insistent that his side would take the tournament seriously, with his lineup selections continually backing up that sentiment. A favorable draw gave the Red Bulls a chance to play at Red Bull Arena all the way through the semifinals, and the home side whole-eartedly believed they would come out on top on Tuesday afternoon.
Instead, they are left only with regret after falling on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw with rivals the Philadelphia Union.
“I envisioned in my mind us celebrating and moving on to the next round, even as we were going to the PKs,” goalkeeper Luis Robles admitted. “I envisioned us being the team on top and celebrating with our fans, so for it not to work out is a punch to the gut. That’s the hardest part; it’s dealing with the result when you so believed that it was going to be the other way around.”
For the second time this season, the Philadelphia Union came to Red Bull Arena and dispatched the home side, and in similar fashion. Their May 24 matchup saw Philly utilize a deadly counterattack to put two past the Red Bulls, and followed a similar blueprint on Tuesday afternoon. Down to 10 men and pinned in their half for large stretches of the match, the Union needed but one chance to make New York pay.
“Very similar. Philly has our number,” Marsch said postgame.
“Right now, it hurts,” Marsch added. “In that locker room, those guys are feeling pain. But when you care about something a lot, when you have a lot of pride in what you’re doing, when you empty the tank every day and you come up a little bit empty, that’s what it does: It hurts bad.”
For New York, the chances were there for the taking for the majority of the match. Outshooting the Union 32-8, the Red Bulls were constantly on the attack. But a lack of quality in the final third coupled with a Philly side content to sit back and absorb pressure made for a frustrating night.
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“I thought for sure when we equalized that we’d push on in overtime,” winger Mike Grella told reporters. “But our half chances just weren’t turning into anything.
“We had quite a few [chances,] but it seemed like it didn’t want to go in. It was just not our day.”
After a deflating defeat, the challenge that remains is just as much emotional as it is physical. After leaving it all on the field and coming up empty, the Red Bulls now must find a way to turn the page and focus on the remainder of the MLS season.
“You have no choice,” captain Dax McCarty told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re all professionals and we get paid in the good times and the bad times. It doesn’t really matter what happened in the past. Obviously this game is going to sting for a day and you just have to move on, you have to take it on the chin and move on.”