CINCINNATI, Ohio – For the first time since 2003, the New York Red Bulls are in the U.S. Open Cup Final, with yet another chance to win the first cup trophy in the franchise’s history. And if there was ever any doubt of the importance of that, there shouldn't be after Tuesday's performance.
In a thriller in front of 33,250 fans in Nippert Stadium, New York roared back from a two-goal deficit to beat Cinderella story FC Cincinnati 3-2 in extra time. And afterward, coach Jesse Marsch said his club’s “energy is at an all-time high" following one of the most dramatic victories in club history.
“Players and teams are judged by championships, and that’s something that’s been barren for this club,” he said. “When I first was brought in here to do a job, it was to create a change. So for us to take a huge step like getting to a final is a huge moment for us.”
For Marsch and captain Sacha Kljestan, the comeback in front of a rowdy crowd is something the club can draw inspiration from in difficult situations for the rest of this season. And for Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose brace included the game-winner, the Red Bulls’ comeback ability has become a hallmark of the team.
“When we went two goals down, I knew that it was going to take something special,” he said. “But if there’s one team that can do it, it’s us. … Situations like that just seem to suit us. When we go a goal down – I don’t like it, but it’s an advantage – we turn into a different animal.”
Since beating New York City FC in the first match of their Open-Cup run June 14, the Red Bulls are 9-2-1 in all competitions, and Marsch said the team’s resurgence hasn’t been recognized enough.
“No one wants to give this group credit,” he said. “No one wants to acknowledge that they’ve been a good team, especially in the past two or three months. No one wants to tip their hat to what’s been happening here at Red Bull. And the only way to force people’s hand is to win.”
Marsch is happy to go to bat for his players, but Kljestan said the Red Bulls locker room isn’t worried about perception, at least until they find that elusive trophy.
“It’s all good,” he said with a smile. “The attention doesn’t really matter if we don’t win MLS Cup, and that’s the goal.”
As New York battles to solidify their playoff position while preparing for their Open Cup final at Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 20, Marsch said his team will be balancing a jubilant night with a sense of unfinished business.
“I’ve got to remind everybody that we’ve got more work to do,” he said. “But the feeling right now is one of euphoria. We’re going to use this to continue to galvanize our team.”