Everybody from fans to media to the MLS’ own website ripped the Red Bulls for not adding a difference-maker before the transfer window closed this week.
But Red Bulls’ sporting director Denis Hamlett countered by saying they already have two in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, insisting they’re already a contender. And they looked the part in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Orlando City SC before a sellout crowd of 25,219.
The Red Bulls (12-8-2, 38 points) spotted Orlando the lead on Carlos Rivas’ 18th minute tally, but equalized on an own goal a dozen minutes later. Wright-Phillips made the difference with his 60th minute winner, and Sean Davis curled in a beautiful score from 22 yards out for the icing on a sweet victory.
Now they’ve bounced back from last weekend’s loss to New York City FC and have won seven out of eight overall going into Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Cincinnati.
“We feel good about our roster,’’ Hamlett said. “We have two difference-makers.
“For the last 2 ½ years Bradley and Sacha are two difference-makers. So when people constantly have this dialogue that we don’t have difference-makers, I’m looking at Bradley and see a guy that’s been a prolific scorer since he’s been in this league. What he’s done the past 2 ½ years that I’ve been here has been amazing. The same with Sacha. So we feel like we do have those.”
To Hamlett’s point, Wright-Phillips’ 69 goals since the start of 2015 are the most in MLS history over a three-year stretch. Kljestan is three away from the three-year record for assists. And Saturday against Orlando (8-10-6, 30), they had more than enough.
They fell behind early when Kaka — sent off by VAR review for shoving in extra time — set up Rivas. But they equalized when Tyler Adams sent in a cross toward Kljestan that Orlando’s Leo Pereira accidentally deflected in for an own goal.
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