The Red Bulls called Gerhard Struber’s bluff with the opening win

If Gerhard Struber’s press conference last Wednesday served that purpose dampen expectationsthen the performance of the Red Bulls on the opening day should have pleasantly surprised the fans.

New York beat the San Jose Earthquakes and beat the hosts 18-12 en route to a 3-1 away win.

The performance didn’t seem quite reminiscent of the team Struber had described days earlier as he stressed his hopes for more transfer signings and downplayed the chances of an MLS Cup run.

“I’m a realistic man. I’m not a dreamer,” he told the media that day.

At least a place in the playoffs is realistic for Struber’s young team, which travels to Toronto on Saturday, and he admitted during this press that the team still had “big aspirations.”

Saturday’s victory illustrated both the excitement and caution that should surround this team. Aaron Long returned to the heart of defense (as captain) after a long injury layoff, attacking midfield duo Cristian Casseres Jr and Omir Fernandez impressed and Lewis Morgan provided a debut assist for the club. At the same time, 18-year-old Daniel Edelman and 16-year-old Serge Ngoma – both debutants – were two of the club’s bench reinforcements in a one-goal game and another substitute was 18-year-old Caden Clark. Long, 29, was the oldest player in the starting XI.

New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls celebrate Patryk Klimala’s opener against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even if Tom Edwards (23) and newcomer Luquinhas (25) provide a bit more experience, Struber will still be able to fall back on an extremely young team. Perhaps he wouldn’t be wrong in lowering expectations for this group and he wouldn’t be the first coach to do so for his side.

Across town, NYCFC coach Ronny Deila didn’t do the same that long before winning the MLS Cup in 2021.

“We have a very young squad, the depth in this squad is not good enough to make a difference in MLS,” said Deila told reporters during the 2021 preseason. “We need more good players.”

Of course, Deila soon got some of that depth and later changed his take on the state of the squad. The same could very well happen to Struber and it’s worth considering whether his comments on the squad stem from genuine pessimism or are a call for the club’s bosses to do more business.

Either way, Saturday’s result was a positive contrast to his somewhat gloomy assessment of the squad.

Title hangover for NYCFC

After going unbeaten in five preseason games and defeating Santos de Guapiles in the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16, NYCFC looked surprisingly undercooked last weekend.

At the Galaxy, the reigning champions had just one shot on target and lost 1-0 to a late Chicharito goal.

NYCFC were doomed by a late goal from Javier Hernandez.
NYCFC were doomed by a late goal from Javier Hernandez.
Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Perhaps the absence from home (they played the CCL’s second “home game” in Los Angeles before playing Galaxy) caught up with the team, but it wasn’t a performance you’d expect from such a talented group.

New York City won’t play Yankee Stadium until March 12, but they’ll at least hope Keaton Parks (who played 28 minutes last weekend) can return to the starting XI soon.

Otherwise, this was one thing NYCFC could forget and move on with. Deila said after the game his team needs to be better with the ball and despite every half-chance Galaxy created, their goal was a mistake by Parks.

For the champions, it’s far from panic time. They visit Vancouver on Saturday. The Red Bulls called Gerhard Struber’s bluff with the opening win


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