WASHINGTON — New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips stole the show at the first Atlantic Cup match at Audi Field, scoring his 100th goal in Major League Soccer to and RBNY a 1-0 victory over D.C. United.
“It was kind of lucky. I didn’t hit it the best,” Wright-Phillips said of No. 100. “I am obviously happy, not just to score 100 goals, but to do it for this club. They gave me a chance.”
As rain steadily fell in Washington, Wright-Phillips ripped off his classic No. 99 jersey to reveal a white Red Bulls jersey emblazoned with the number 100. It took the forward just two minutes into his 159th match to become the fastest player to reach the century goal mark.
“You can’t necessarily shut him down if you lose the center of the park in a consistent way throughout the first half,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said about BWP. “He is too consistent. His movement is as good as anybody this league has ever seen.”
In a very physically match, United had a chance to even the score in the 28th minute when midfielder Zoltan Stieber slotted a ball through to Paul Arriola inside the penalty box. Arriola finished the shot, but the referee whistled for VAR and reversed the goal call.
The shot was one of just two United took in the first half.
“I feel unfulfilled,” Olsen said. “I am disappointed in the start. I am disappointed in the first half. It is not hard to figure out who [Red Bulls] are and what they are about.”
Jul 25, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) celebrates with Red Bulls midfielder Kaku (10) and Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne (7) after scoring a goal against D.C. United in the first half at Audi Field. It was his 100th goal in MLS. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Olsen made one change in his lineup from the 3-1 loss in Atlanta, opting to return to Darren Mattocks at forward instead of Wayne Rooney. Rooney made a straight substitution for Mattocks in the 57th minute of Wednesday’s match.
United did not step to balls and were not combative enough in the first half. That all change in the second half, Olsen said.
“There were plenty of chances there to tie or win the game,” Olsen said. “If you don’t start the right way and it is not your night in the finishing end, you lose a game.”
In the second half, there were two controversial no-calls in United’s attacking third.
“I thought the ref was very poor tonight,” Olsen said, choosing his words carefully. “We didn’t get a shake all night long, and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
One play was a potential handball on a Red Bulls defender, the other came in the 67th minute when defender Tim Parker tripped up Rooney inside the box. Neither plays were whistled fouls or reviewed with VAR.
“I didn’t see much, but I felt it,” Rooney said. “It was a clear foul.”
Late in the second half, Arriola set up an orchestrated play to Acosta in the final third. Acosta put a ball in for midfielder Yamil Asad, who took one too many steps and had his shot blocked.
United made one last push for an equalizer in the dying minutes of the when Rooney had his final attempt on target blocked by goalkeeper Luis Robles.
“We didn’t take our chances, so it cost us the game,” Rooney said. “I think we gave a few chances away.”
Despite the late effort, United could not turn the delayed weeknight game in their favor. The last-place team continues to look for a way up the table.
“There is some urgency here,” Olsen said. “We also sometimes have to tip your hat to the other team.”
As far as the Atlantic Cup rivalry is concerned, United gets two more chances in less than three months. The two clubs meet in August at Red Bull Arena and then in the 2018 Atlantic Cup final on Sept. 16 back at Audi Field.