HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls scored three times in a six-minute span midway through the second half to defeat Real Salt Lake, 4-0, and ruin Mike Petke’s return to Red Bull Arena Saturday night.
It was the third win in four consecutive matches without a defeat for the Red Bulls (7-5-3, 24 points), while Real Salt Lake (6-8-1, 19 points) dropped its second in a row after three straight victories.
After being thwarted by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando on several chances, the breakthrough came on an own goal in the 58th minute as Aaron Herrera tried to slide to break up a penetrating ball by Michael Murillo. But Herrera’s touch at the edge of the six-yard box deflected up and went in off Marcelo Silva’s chest.
With the fans still celebrating that goal, the Red Bulls made it 2-0 a minute later. Kaku, who played several quality balls into RSL’s 18-yard box, connected with Daniel Royer. The winger took one touch with his right foot and then found the back of the net with his second touch.
“In the first half, we did have a feeling that the goal was coming,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “You could see it. … The belief was there at halftime. The energy was right, a couple little adjustments, and it was fun to watch the guys have fun.”
Murillo got in on the party in the 64th minute. Unmarked in the box, the Panamanian right back cut Alex Muyl’s cross to his left foot and put a deflected shot past Rimando.
“Coach [Chris Armas] talked to us and said to keep working,” Murillo said through a translator about Armas’ halftime message. “We came out, we were able to get the own goal and got some confidence. Thank God the second goal came and escalated things until we were able to score the other two.”
Jun 1, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl (19) reacts after a collision with Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha (14) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Omir Fernandez then scored his second goal in as many games seven minutes from full time to cap the scoring. The rookie forward ran onto a ball cut back by Andreas Ivan and slammed a first-time shot past a dejected Rimando.
“Coming out the second half, it was a completely different game.” Petke said. “Our organization, our structure was off. We left too many goals and gaps. Three of the four goals came down our left side due to either miscommunication or positioning of certain players, and against a team like this, if you’re not structured right, they want to make you pay, and they did, three goals in [six] minutes.”
The Red Bulls’ best chances of the opening 45 minutes fell to Royer, both a result of the high press causing turnovers in the Real Salt Lake defensive third.
In the 22nd minute, Kaku slipped Royer behind, but Rimando made a diving stop before Alex Muyl’s rebound fell directly to the veteran goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, Royer took a pair of touches before finding space 20 yards from goal, but he was again denied by a diving Rimando.
Real Salt Lake’s best first-half chance came on a set piece, as Bofo Saucedo put a free kick over the Red Bulls’ two-man wall in the 38th minute. Luis Robles, though answered the challenge, diving to his right to parry the attempt away for an RSL corner kick.
In the 52nd minute, Brian White was played in on goal by Kaku, but Rimando again knocked his attempt down.
On the other side of the field one minute later, Sam Johnson latched onto a Marcelo Silva header, but pushed his attempt wide of the far post.
The Red Bulls have one game left before the Gold Cup break, heading to Talen Energy Stadium to meet the rival Philadelphia Union next Saturday, while RSL don’t return to league play until a road game against the Chicago Fire on June 22.