A brace from Bradley Wright-Phillips and an opening goal from Alex Muyl were more than enough to see the New York Red Bulls (2-1-0, 6 points) past Minnesota United (2-2-0, 6 points) as the hosts notched a 3-0 victory.
The scoreline was a repeat from last July’s meeting in Minneapolis — the only previous between the two teams — with Wright-Phillips and Muyl tallying a goal each against the Loons that summer.
That the Red Bulls found the scoresheet against a Loons side forced to rotate all of its back four wasn’t particularly surprising. Centerbacks Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica) and Michael Boxall (New Zealand) were absent due to international call ups, while full backs Jérôme Thiesson and Tyrone Mears were nursing injuries.
In their place, the Loons started a pair of 2018 SuperDraft picks, both making their professional debuts. Wyatt Omsberg got the nod at center back and Carter Manley did so at right back. With both Omsberg and fellow center back Brent Kallman right footed, it was illustrative that Minnesota Head Coach Adrian Heath played Omsberg at left center back to avoid having two rookies line up next to one another.
Weary legs may have contributed to New York’s 1-o loss at Real Salt Lake its last time out, having played Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League four days earlier. Given a full week to prepare for tonight’s game at Red Bull Arena, Jesse March’s charges grabbed an early lead and never looked back.
Muyl opened the scoring in the 15th minute with the contest’s first shot on target.
The NYRB academy product received a pass from his near flank, kept Minnesota midfielder Ibson at heel’s length, took his space, then cut in past left back Marc Burch before curling the ball around a diving Matt Lampson and inside the far post.
Minnesota went in search of an equalizer, but had little success with its approach, completing just one of 10 first-half crosses. The center-back pairing of Aaron Long and Tim Parker proved more than equal to the task, and was instrumental in helping the Red Bulls win nearly 70-percent of their aerial duels on the evening.
Not content with only blanketing Christian Ramirez, Parker would pop up at the other end of the pitch shortly before the end of the half to help take the wind out of Minnesota’s sails.
Sean Davis sent a free kick from just inside the center line into Minnesota’s 18-yard box. Parker beat Kallman in the air, and the former’s header sent the ball towards Lampson. Intervening with a deft touch, a streaking Wright-Phillips poked the ball into the net, giving New York a 2-0 lead heading into the half.
Conceding right before the half is a difficult pill to swallow. So, too for Minnesota, was having mustered just a single shot on target in the first half. Having scored six goals over its first three games, Minnesota was on its way to being shut out for the first time in 2018.
“I think we were waiting to get beat today,” Heath Fox Sports North.
The second half unfolded much like the first, and the Red Bulls would go on to claim numerous statistical measures on the evening. New York held 55-percent of the possession, and completed 60 percent of its passes in the final third while Minnesota completed just 49 percent. The Red Bulls placed nine of 21 shots on target, while the Loons did so on just four of of their 10 efforts.
“We lost our one-on-one battles. We lost our collective [battles],” Minnesota winger Ethan Finlay told Fox Sports North. “Ninety minutes like this tonight is disappointing because I thought we left this in 2017.”
Heath brought on a trio of attacking players in the second half — Abu Danladi, Mason Toye and MLS-debutant Frantz Pangop — but couldn’t spark his attack.
New York would score its third in the 78th minute.
With Burch caught up field, Muyl curled a lovely ball around Omsberg and into the path of Wright-Phillips. Lampson, having come off his line, was forced to set up for a reaction save. As was the case with his first goal of the night, Wright-Phillips needed only a single touch, flicking the ball with the outside of his right foot over Lampson and inside the far post.
It was Wright-Phillips 89th career MLS goal, and put the game beyond reach.
New York will travel to Orlando next Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff.
Minnesota returns to TCF Bank Stadium next Saturday in an attempt to avenge last season’s 6-1 home defeat by Atlanta United.