NY Red Bulls advance to US Open Cup final with win over FC Cincinnati
FC Cincinnati’s underdog run through this year’s US Open Cup competition came to an end last night (Aug. 15). The home side disappointed a capacity crowd at Nippert Stadium in the Queen City as visiting NY Red Bulls rallied for 3 late scores to take the tournament’s second semifinal. Red Bulls’ victory sets up another all-MLS final September 20, at Sporting Kansas City.
Choosing the Fall guy
Despite the absence of tournament leading scorer, Djiby Fall, FC Cincinnati will have no one to blame but themselves for this defeat. But that blame does not rest with the effort of the players on the field.
For 75 minutes the Orange and Blue looked certain winners. They opened the scoring in the 31st minute. A perfect cross into the box. The pass neatly chested down to an experienced foot. And a 1-0 halftime lead was born.
Things got even crazier in the second half.
In the 62d minute, a home grown talent rose to a corner service and sent home a blistering header to double the lead. 2-0 midway through the second half. This was storybook stuff. A fairy tale unfolding on live stream. A 2-0 lead built while the club’s main scoring threat watched from the stands, rendered helpless by yellow cards.
Then it was minute 75 and still the home side lead, 2-0. The final was now a quarter of an hour away. Cincinnati’s fans could not have been faulted then for taking out their phones to check on flights and hotel rooms. It was that close to being done and dusted.
Confusion and collapse
But as the ball floated across the area in that 75th minute a defending header was angled down. That header might’ve been better sent up and over. Regardless, in that moment Cincinnati’s dream collapsed into confusion. Most likely the pressure of two huge matches in less than four days finally began to weigh them down. They’d suffered a crushing defeat over the weekend to USL Eastern Conference rivals Louisville City FC. Louisville caught them looking ahead to New York. And now New York had caught them wallowing in the past.
Red Bulls’ Gonzalo Verón pounced on that misplayed header and slammed it into Mitch Hildebrandt’s net. The home side faithful looked to the scoreboard for reassurance. It was still 2-1. Couldn’t they just hold together for a little longer?
But Red Bulls manager, Jesse Marsch, looked instead at his watch. Calculating the time remaining. Fifteen minutes plus stoppage. With luck, more than enough time to cap his club’s rally with a tying score.
Magic is fickle
As any FC C fan knows, of course, it did indeed turn out to be enough time for New York to fashion a win. Magic changed sides in that 75th minute. Where magic had done Cincinnati’s bidding up to that moment in the Open Cup, from then on it belonged to Bradley Wright-Phillips.
The Red Bulls genius forward made short work of a 78th minute cross in from the far flank. A quick turn of his head over his shoulder and the ball flew by the near post and into the net. 2-2.
Everyone took a deep breath. Penalties loomed. For a moment providence flirted with both sides at once as a 90th-minute header battered Cincinnati’s crossbar. Red Bulls were taunted with what might have been. While the home team was teased by the unseen helping hand.
Whose side was magic on anyway? 11 minutes into overtime and the answer was obvious to everyone.
It was a great Open Cup run by FC Cincinnati. And truth to tell it was a great rally by NY Red Bulls. It may have also been a preview of things that are coming soon. Cincinnati’s ownership seems determined to turn the club into an MLS expansion team asap.
In all likelihood, any such move will eventually be all to the good.
But on a night when an Orange and Blue underdog came so close to the ultimate prize, it is hard to imagine that it will.