In the first action for the MLS locals this week coming out of a three-week international break, the Red Bulls beat the Chicago Fire, 3-1, on Friday night at Red Bull Arena, and New York City Football Club beat the Philadelphia Union, 4-2, on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Bulls improved to 8-3-6, with 27 points, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, while NYCFC is right behind them with 26 points and a record of 6-8-1. Both gained ground on Philadelphia, who leads the East with 32 points (9-5-5).
Red Bulls 3, Chicago 1 (Friday):
The Red Bulls are now unbeaten in the last four matches (3-0-1) at Red Bull Arena.
In the eighth minute, the Red Bulls' Kaku took advantage of Chicago's Kenneth Kronholm's mishandling of a pass as he took control of the ball to give them the early 1-0 lead. Kaku now has three goals this season to raise his career total to nine as a Red Bull.
He has recorded a point in five consecutive matches, tallying three goals and two assists during that stretch.
It stayed that way into the second half when the Red Bulls were pushing on a counterattack with Daniel Royer dribbling into the box and sent a pass across the six-yard box.
Brian White slid in and snuck his shot to the near post to double the lead, 2-0 in the 59th minute. White scored his team-leading fifth league goal of the season in just 708 minutes of action. He has recorded three goals and one assist in the last five games, including goals in back-to-back matches.
White came off in the 67th minute for Bradley Wright-Phillips, who returned to the 18-man roster and saw action for the first time since April 20.
As time was winding down in regulation, Chicago's Aleksandar Katai ripped a shot from the top of the 18-yard box and bounced off the crossbar back into play. Nemanja Nikolic collected the loose ball and beat Luis Robles to cut the deficit to one, 2-1, in the 81st minute.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Bradley Wright-Phillips saved a ball from going out-of-bounds and sent it down the sideline for Kyle Duncan, who took possession of the ball, dribbled into the box and launched a pass to the opposite side for Royer.
Royer redirected the pass with his body to the near post to seal the victory, 3-1. This was his fourth goal of the season and 28th of his career.
Red Bulls Captain and goalkeeper Luis Robles recorded a season-best seven saves and moved into seventh all-time in MLS in wins with 108.
Red Bulls Head coach Chris Armas improved to 20-9-6 all-time at the helm and 14-4-1 at home.
Armas said of the win, "Well, we scored three good goals I would say. We were a good pressing team. Kaku presses forces a mistake, two goals in transition which we said was one of the ways we thought we could get them tonight. We scored three.
"So we score three, maybe there's one or two more out there for us and they have some good chances and which is no surprise because their strength is their attackers. Their front four, of course you throw Dax into that mix; and Schweinsteiger, what a quality player our league has in Chicago with him and they create some good chances and of course Luis Robles came up big on a bunch of occasions. So you know, I've said before, does he get the credit he deserves, whether it's all-star nominations and nods, and every year, he seems to just be so constant and steady. On a night like tonight, he shows a big -- he keeps us in it. But I thought in the second half, we created some good transition."
The Red Bulls hit the road for four of the next five matches, beginning with back-to-back road matches against Houston (July 3) and Atlanta United (July 7). The Red Bulls match against the Dynamo is slated to kick off at 9 p.m.
NYCFC 4, Philadelphia 2 (Saturday):
Maxi Moralez led the way for NYCFC in this one, as he had two goals and two assists.
Philadelphia got on the board first in the seventh minute when Fabrice-Jean Picault scored in the seventh minute after a brilliant set up from Jamiro Monteiro.
NYCFC tied it in the 23rd when Moralez scored on a penalty kick.
Soon after, in the 30th minute, the Union took the lead back as Kacper Przybylko scored on a feed from Jamiro Monteiro and Ilsinho. Philadelphia took that 2-1 lead into the second half.
In the 55th minute, NYC was awarded another penalty kick, which was again taken by Moralez, and he buried it to tie the game at 2. Moralez now has five goals on the season.
NYCFC then got two goals from Valentin Castellanos, in the 71st and 78th minutes, and both assisted by Moralez, to seal the 4-2 win.
NYCFC Head Coach Domenec Torrent said of Castellanos, “You know, it’s very important that I say that all of them deserve to play and that I don’t have a doubt about Taty because I say many times in the facilities, he never gave up and he did everything he could to convince the coaches. I say many times, it’s impossible to play more than 14 players. And they have to be ready to play. And his opportunities are the same as Keaton [Parks]. Keaton played the game really well again and it’s good news for us. And I don’t have doubts about my players, and I say many times to them, they have to be ready to play when I decide to play with them.”