New York Red Bulls started their 2020 MLS campaign with a 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena. Red Bulls dominated the game early, scoring two goals on 12 shot attempts in the first 45 minutes and added a third goal late in the second half to secure the victory.
Midfielder Florian Valot assisted on both of RBNY’s first half goals; a welcome sight for fans considering Valot is coming off of back-to-back ACL tears which caused him to miss a majority of the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“I’ve seen him [Valot] come back with a different edge, almost a greater love for being out there in training every day. So for him, the greatest reward for a player is to play well” said Armas during the post-game press conference. Armas was very complimentary of the Frenchman, saying “I think we can all see what Flo Valot offers us; elegance on the ball, intelligence, can calm things down and I think he’s going to be a big piece for us this year”.
Another player that stood out in the match was right back Kyle Duncan, who opened the scoring in the 16th minute after Valot played him in down the right wing. Duncan sped past his marker and calmly put it in the back of the net for his first goal of the season.
When asked about Duncan’s potential, Armas praised his ability to contribute offensively. “[Duncan’s] ability to get forward now, the way we play – very narrow at times – it’s really a necessity. The ceiling is high for him. He’s been involved with the [USA] Olympic team and of course, we think the National Team could be a spot for him one day”.
Alejandro “Kaku” Romero added to the lead in the 27th minute after Valot spotted his trailing run and played a ball into the center of the box. Kaku one-timed the shot and neatly tucked it into the bottom left corner for Red Bulls second goal of the match.
FC Cincinnati had trouble breaking the Red Bulls press early on, routinely losing possession in their own half leading to multiple opportunities for the home side. After managing only 1 shot attempt in the first half, FC Cincinnati looked like a different team coming out of the break. Last season’s leading scorer Allan Cruz scored just one minute into the second half, cutting the Red Bulls lead to 2-1.
FC Cincinnati looked more comfortable on the ball in the second half, finishing the match with 56% of the overall possession. However, another defensive lapse cost them in the 70th minute when Kyle Duncan’s pass sliced through several FC Cincinnati defenders and found Daniel Royer on the left side of the 18-yard box. Royer collected the ball, cut inside onto his right foot, created space with some nifty dribble moves and fired a shot past the sprawling Spencer Richey to make it 3-1.
FC Cincinnati was able to make things interesting in the 83rd minute when new signee Juergen Locadia got in behind the defense to score, making it 3-2 with 10 minutes to play. Ultimately, it was “too little too late” for FC Cincinnati who’s good second half performance couldn’t make up for their abysmal performance in the first half.
After the match, Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas was pleased with his team’s performance and stressed the importance of this victory. “We approached today with a must win mentality. We’ve talked about a fresh start, a new year and with 8 of 12 [of our first matches] on the road, we talked [about] how we needed to maximize our points at home, regardless of the opponent”.
Next up on the schedule is Real Salt Lake, who will host the Red Bulls this Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL is coming off of a 0-0 draw vs. Orlando City and will look to get their first win of 2020 at home, where they won 12 of 17 matches in 2019. This will be a good test for New York, considering Red Bulls struggled on the road last season, going 5-9-3 in away matches.