If first impressions are everything, John Rooney's impression of his older brother's in-game heroics was a good start for Red Bulls supporters.
Rooney's bouncing strike from the arc stood up as the game winner for the Red Bulls during their 2-1 victory over the USL's FC New York in the third round of the 2011 US Open Cup tournament at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday. The 65th minute goal by the English rookie and younger brother of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney followed an equalizer in the 58th minute by Corey Hertzog to cement the Red Bulls' first win in any competition since April 30.
The win also clinches a spot for the Red Bulls in the US Open Cup quarterfinals, where they will face the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on July 12.
Playing a Kid's Game. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe fielded a side consisting largely of reserves against their derby dance partners, with only forward Juan Agudelo, center back Tim Ream, and goalkeeper Greg Sutton being among the regular contributors available for Tuesday's contest. Midfielder Austin da Luz and defender Stephen Keel also featured in the starting XI for the home side.
While Backe's decision to rest his regulars will cloud any evaluations of the Red Bulls' prognosis in the near term, it also provided an opportunity for the likes of Rooney and newly-acquired defender Mike Jones to make names for themselves. Tuesday will not be the last time anyone hears from the Red Bulls reserves, as Backe has already indicated his preference to field a similar lineup against the Fire in two weeks' time.
"It will be the same team," Backe said to Big Apple Soccer. "I just hope that we have 11 starters on July 12 because July is a killer for us. I think we have up to nine games now in July."
Play of the Game: FCNY's Go-Ahead Goal. The Red Bulls largely dominated possession throughout Tuesday's match, but could not break through in the first half against an efficient FCNY back line that did not miss a beat while defender and team captain Sam Stockley served a one-game suspension for receiving a red card in the club's second-round match.
When Owen Morrison opened the scoring for the visitors in the 56th minute, it raised concerns about the same old Red Bulls that have conceded leads to fine and feeble MLS sides over the past two months. Morrison caught Sutton on his heels with a strike from distance that tucked itself inside the top corner of the near post.
Unlike the Red Bulls' recent efforts, Morrison's goal seemed to unlock a sense of urgency in the home side's attacking efforts. Hertzog would answer the goal less than two minutes later with a strike past FCNY 'keeper Steve Diaz, while Rooney doubled it up with the game winner in less than 10 minutes of Morrison's breakthrough. The Red Bulls' back line kept disrupting the FCNY passing lanes to stifle their attack, giving Sutton little to do for the rest of the night.
Morrison's strike incited the Red Bulls to finish off their guests. It's a description that hasn't fit the home side for quite a while.
New Faces. Tuesday's match featured a great deal of new blood from the ranks of the reserves, but they may not be the only ones adjusting to call Red Bull Arena home in the near future.
Before the match, Red Bulls GM Erik Solér indicated that the trade that brought midfielder Dax McCarty to New York should also free up resources to acquire more depth in the coming weeks.
“The trade with DC is a straight one," Solér said to MLSsoccer.com. "We’re ending up with some money as Dax’s salary is less than De Ro’s. We’re going to do more moves in the summer. Money under the cap is good for us.”
The Red Bulls will train at home for a few days before taking yet another transcontinental road trip to face the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).