The final score was 5-3. It very easily could've been 9-8. Poor defending by both sides turned a U.S. Open Cup play-in match with something at stake into a free for all. Despite United's three-goal advantage early in the second half, there was a sense of tension, a feeling that the outcome was far from resolved. New York's threats and United's missteps created the unexpected late-game anxiety. The eight goals were the most in a United game since a 6-2 win over New York five years ago. (No, the 6-2 loss to Colorado in the Hall of Fame Game in 2005 doesn't count.)
Positives for United: Chris Pontius embraced another new position (deep midfield) and produced, building his stature as the league's best rookie; Christian Gomez engineered the attack with vision and expertise before departing at halftime; Boyzzz Khumalo and Fred were lively and dangerous, though New York's comical defensive effort helped make it all possible. The Red Bulls were scheduled to take the late Acela home from Union Station; judging by the start of the match, they seemed eager to catch an earlier train.
Attendance was announced as 5,056 (tickets distributed). I'm guessing the actual turnout was closer to 3,000. Maybe less. It's an Open Cup play-in game -- what did you expect?
The match report with quotes.
Wicks 5; Namoff 5, Janicki 4, John 4.5; Barklage 7, McTavish 5, Pontius 8, Gomez 8, Fred 7; Khumalo 6.5, N'Silu 6. Subs: Jacobson 5, Wallace 6, DiRaimondo 5, Burch 5.
For bonus quotes, keep reading.....
Pontius, on the second-half letdown: "It's hard to keep that pace going for a full 45. A lot of the guys haven't been getting the full 90, so they are not necessarily all game-fit. It was partly that and then partly New York starting to figure us out a little bit and making changes."
Pontius, on the new position: "I like it. I need to get more comfortable on the ball, balls into my feet more. It's a little different than outside midfield or forward. I like being able to get involved on the defensive end, pick up balls in the middle and go from there."
Coach Tom Soehn: "They [Red Bulls] held a high line and I think we exposed it pretty well and probably could've had more out of the first 28 minutes or so. But then we started to stretch a little bit and we felt like we needed to attack with a lot of numbers. The way their line was, we didn't have to attack with too many. We should've kept our shape a little better. ... We had some tough moments too and I just felt it was important to give some of the guys that haven't gotten minutes, they had to dig themselves out of those holes and learn a little bit about themselves."
Soehn: "It's still a 90-minute game and there were stretches where there were positives but there were a lot of things we can look at too that we need to fix. The first half was probably a lot better on the positive side, but in the second half, we made a lot of errors. It's important that they go through those stretches to learn. ... We stopped playing soccer. The thing we did so well in the first half was move the ball around and they were chasing. Second half, we forgot to do that."
Soehn, on keeper Josh Wicks: "He still has to manage a game better. It's little details that we talk to our players about. We are trying to finish off a game and he kicked about three right to their keeper. Little intricacies like that - all of our guys have to be sharp, understand the situation and what the game means. He probably came out for one he could've punched and tried to catch. All that stuff is part of the learning process."
Soehn, on the lineup: "I knew it wasn't going to be perfect and I knew we were going to give up some chances, not as many as we did. You learn a little bit about every scenario you are in."
Soehn, on Gomez: "We need to continue to push his minutes. When he's healthy and fit, he's a difference-maker. Even today you saw how easy it was for him to expose the backline. Not many No. 10s still have the capability of scoring goals and making runs that get in behind."
Soehn, on Pontius: "We tried him sitting in a little deeper and see if he can understand that position. He has some positive moments and some things that now we can look at on tape and say, 'Chris, this is what you need to do here.' We move him around everywhere and he continues to adapt."
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