Long Island Pelé to the Rescue

The New York Red Bulls, fresh off an abysmal loss to rival DC United, responded on Wednesday night the only way they could have wanted to: a win in front of the home fans before the season’s first match against local rivals New York City FC.  The Chicago Fire, with a 1-0 loss courtesy of Mike Grella’s 59th minute strike, continue their dismal away form.

Both teams had their opportunities in the first half, with the Red Bulls dominating possession, but neither managed to get on the scoresheet.  The Red Bulls had a few penalty shouts in the early moments of the first half, but referee Robert Sibiga stayed silent.  The Fire were close to scoring with a shot from David Accam almost making it past Luis Robles, but the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year managed a flying save to his left to leave the score at zero.

The second half brought similar dominance of possession for the Red Bulls and finally, a breakthrough came.  “We felt that the way to find the goal was most likely to be on a turnover,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said in the post-match press conference.  Bradley Wright-Phillips led the counterattack into the Fire’s half, who sent the ball to Lloyd Sam before Sam found Grella in front of goal for the finish.  The goal secured the team’s first 1-0 win of the season and earned the defense their second clean sheet.

The hero of the night, though, was Connor Lade, who took an elbow above his left eye from Accam in the first half and was on the receiving end of a harsh tackle in the second.  Lade underplayed the injury in the postgame show on MSG, saying he got “a little bit of a cut.”  The right back received “about seven stitches” at halftime, he said, but played on, despite having a bloody face early on.  Marsch sang his player’s praises, saying “I thought [he] was overall our best player on the night. What do you say about a guy like that? It’s a pleasure to coach him.”

The win provides the Red Bulls the right momentum heading into Saturday’s clash with NYCFC.  “It’s great to erase DC from our memories now,” Grella said in the postgame show on MSG.  The midfielder gave a lot of respect to their cross-town rivals, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, but said the players will give it all they have for the Rivalry Week match.  With this win, the Red Bulls move into fifth place in the East, and can go up to second with a win on Saturday.

For the Fire, it was another disappointing match as they remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.  Veljko Paunovic switched goalkeeper Sean Johnson in for his first start since September 11.  Johnson made two saves, but it was not enough as the Fire continue to leak goals.  The Fire are now at 31 matches without an away win and sit six points away from sixth place, currently occupied by DC United.

Next up for Chicago: Chicago host Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park on May 21st, 5 p.m. ET (MLS LIVE, CSN Plus, ROOT Sports SW)

Next up for NY Red Bulls: The Red Bulls head to Yankee Stadium for a NY is Red or Blue rivalry match on May 21st at 3 p.m. ET (FOX)


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