HARRISON, N.J. – New York forward Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his third hat trick of the season as the Red Bulls pulled away from the Sounders – a Sounders team with a host of lineup changes from its Open Cup triumph earlier this week – for a resounding 4-1 victory Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
Here are my first impressions:
– Bradley Wright-Phillips is cold-blooded
That’s not exactly a newsflash, given the New York striker entered the match with a league-best 21 goals and that he finished it with 24.
But with star Seattle strikers Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins beginning the game on the bench, Wright-Phillips made Saturday night his own from inside the opening minute.
Wright-Phillips netted his first goal before the game was even 29 seconds in, finishing off a shot that had rebounded off goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s hands. His second came from the penalty spot after Dylan Remick took down Lloyd Sam on the edge of the box 11 minutes into the second half.
And the celebratory smoke hadn’t even cleared from goal No. 2 before Wright-Phillips completed his hat trick with a surging run up the center of the Sounders defense.
– Well that didn’t take very long
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid stressed the importance of focusing back in after Tuesday’s Open Cup final, and his team certainly looked like it was still mentally celebrating in the leadup to that early opener.
Thierry Henry’s very first touch was a back heel and New York’s very first attack yielded Wright-Phillips’ opener. New York kept pressing, as Lloyd Sam turned Dylan Remick inside out on the right wing and Dax McCarty fired from distance.
And the Red Bulls didn’t stop, not even once Tim Cahill stretched the lead to 4-1 by following up on Dempsey’s 62nd-minute strike with one of his own three minutes later.
– There was plenty of rest for the weary
Those 120 hard-fought minutes in Philadelphia took their toll on the starting lineup — there were five changes to the XI that started the Open Cup final.
Chad Marshall was the lone holdover on the back line, with Remick and Jalil Anibaba slotting in on the edges.
The unfamiliarity was evident from that very first New York attack – the Red Bulls had time and space to move the ball around, and the passing lanes stayed open from start to finish.
Djimi Traore’s botched clearance, the one that landed at Cahill’s feet in the 65th minute and led to New York’s fourth and final goal, encapsulated a trying performance from the Seattle defense.
With another key road trip looming next week – a visit to F.C. Dallas in what could be a preview of a potential playoff series – getting tired legs back to full strength was an understandable impulse.
But it’s also one of the risks of leaning so heavily on veterans, and there’s no doubt the changes affected the dynamic of Saturday’s match.