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Red Bull Slip Past CF Montreal in Harrison.

5/20/23

J.J. Pavlick

The atmosphere was gloomy outside the Red Bull arena before the match, the parking lot was closer to empty, and the weather was foggy, with heavy rain and wind. It was clear the crowd inside would be low, during Star Wars night against Philly and the Hudson Derby against NYCFC both saw the arena 80-90% full before this match. How much of it was the weather and how much was Dante Vanzeir playing his first match post-suspension? I would lean more toward the weather impacting attendance and the fact that most of the local colleges are having their graduations this weekend. When speaking with the Southward Dante possibly playing today wasn't an issue for them, they see he has taken the steps to grow, they were told what had happened on the pitch, Troy Lesesne made it clear during this week's press conference that Dante's teammates are behind him. You can read Lesesne's statement below, he was compassionate, posed, and direct with the process that happened and continues to happen when it comes to Dante.

Yeah, I would say that it has been a process. It has been a very long process for Dante, for our club, for our supporters. The process is not done by the reintegration this weekend. First I would like to say that there is full focus on the match this weekend. I think that is very important. This group, since last Monday, has done an incredible job in focusing under challenging circumstances and this is another challenging circumstance. Wednesday night was challenging because we were down players. Now this is a challenging circumstance because of what’s going on in regard to Dante. In terms of his process, what I would like to speak to is, that the process started with Dante, number one. Dante did a very good job of admitting to the mistake, owning the mistake, and recognizing that it was a huge mistake. There were consequences that followed that for himself, for our club, for our supports, for San Jose. There were a lot of parties involved in this and he took ownership, maybe not in the immediately, but very shortly thereafter in order to start this process towards healing. He has gone through a rigorous process, one that the MLS has been involved with, certainly, our club has been involved with. We hired an outside firm to make sure that the restorative process was thorough. Speaking to that, he has been involved in six or seven sessions with this firm which has been a very important educational process about the impact of something like this for both himself and everyone that has been involved. The club, the players, the staff members. So I think it has made him more and more aware of how that has affected others as well as why it is wrong and why this was a huge mistake. Where I can give Dante the most credit is the way that he's restored individual relationships with the guys that's outside of a formal process. This is what's impressive to me, the most impressive thing is he's taken the time to speak more individually with players and connect in smaller groups in his own genuine way. That's not guided by anything other than his own human nature. Right. Then the last part of this process to get him back to where he is today, the reintegration into the team for Saturday, is that there was a unanimous vote that took place from the team. Rather there was a vote but the vote was do we want them back or not players only. And this was unanimous, saying we absolutely want Dante back in we think that he's learned from the situation and he understands the situation better and will understand moving forward that there's still a lot of work to do. Dante, this is a long answer, but I think it has to be a thorough one. Dante is now in a position where he's able to be back with the team. But that's been the decision through the process of the players, staff, and club, that he's allowed to come back now at this stage. If others aren't there yet, supporters anyone else, that's okay. That's understandable in your own time. What I'd ask for though, is one thing that I said the other day, and this is a lesson that I learned from one of our black players and one of our youngest black players in Serge Ngoma. I spoke to Serge shortly after this happened with Dante. And I said, how has this affected you? I wanted to listen to him. And one of the things that he taught me was because I had, you know, mixed emotions about what was going on as well. But the thing that gave me really good direction is this young, you know, just incredibly intelligent, black human being there was a black player in our team. He said, listen, this is a time that is going to allow me to educate someone on why this is, he looked at it as an opportunity to educate someone, and an opportunity to be a good human being to someone else who made a big mistake. Another lesson in regards to that from Serge to then Sola with the MLS and it's hand in hand with what I'm talking about with Serge. This was hateful. This was a hateful use of words by Dante, no doubt about that. We can't tolerate that. There have to be consequences again for that. But Dante we've learned is not a hateful person. And he has to continue to prove that every single day. So, I hope that that answers this question. You know, thoroughly on him. if there are more questions I understand completely, but I also want to go back to the original point we have to have full focus on Montreal this weekend and Dante is a part of that.

The game was a pretty ugly one, the play saw patches of multiple stoppages due to players diving for calls and the center awarding those dives. Neither team started the match with complete domination over the other at first, we saw the defense of both teams on display, and it led to some interesting insight about both teams' forwards. Collectively they are a struggling bunch, falling in the box, missing easy shots on goal, turning the ball over easily, and misreading the pitch and their teammate's run. and it's truly sad to see at this level of play. MLS is supposed to be this country's first league, yet the play at times looks like a 2nd or 3rd division when certain teams play. The ironic thing is this country has plenty of passionate fans who want to watch futbol aka soccer in this country but most teams in the league struggle to sell out their arenas or even get more than a few thousand in the stands. Unfortunately, when speaking of men's futbol aka soccer around the world the biggest eye sore is the diving and players constantly going to ground on every touch. Yet you watch the women's matches, and they get borderline mugged and stay on their feet for the majority of the game. I heard a few top people in front offices say it's sad the only way to get Americans into the stands is by giving stuff away or having fireworks post-game. They don't see this issue in Europe and around the rest of the world. It took the Red Bull just 23' to get on the board, despite the fact they had at least 10 solid chances at goal prior to this moment. The Red Bull had earned a corner kick after Wiki Carmona who has been sensational for the first team since his call-up by Troy, fired a shot on the goal and forced Montreal goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois. The cross into the box from the corner kick arch hit a Montreal defender in the face and then bounced in the box between captain Sean Nealis and his fellow center-back Andres Reyes. Reyes took the opportunity since he had the better angle and hit the back middle of the net. For Reyes, it was his 2nd goal of the season offensively and his first after having three or four own goals credited to his name. For Coronel, it had to be a relief in some way to see Reyes beating the other keeper and getting that bad juju off his shoulders. Unfortunately, the celebration and excitement weren't long-lived with Montreal getting the equalizer in the 29' off a free kick taken from 35 yards out by Bryce Duke, his kick found George Campbell who headed the ball perfectly across the box to J. Waterman who beat Reyes to the ball for the tying goal. Coronel had no chance of making the save due to the perfect header by Montreal. Waterman made the run 1st post and made sure to get his foot on the ball to send it across the line. With the game now level the atmosphere inside the building changed and the fans wanted to turn the tide and started chanting let's go Red Bulls to show they had the team's back. Dylan Nealis had himself a half, firing off some nice shots on goal, unfortunately, not all of them were on the frame, that being said they were not going over the crossbar by much. Dylan has played a solid match so far, it's great seeing his progress this season, and hopefully, fans will start to appreciate his efforts more going forward. Montreal captain Victor Wanyama seems to have a thing for crying for cards. The man could be seen all half running to anyone in yellow to beg and plea for cards in situations that didn't warrant a card issuing. It's just another stain on the beautiful game that the majority of fans would like to see leave. The Red Bull started to increase the pressure on Montreal's back line after the equalizer by Waterman, and finally, in the 38' the Red Bull got the goal they wanted, it is surrounded with some controversy though to be totally honest. Casseres Jr. held the ball way too long at the top of the 18-yard mark, which caused Cory Burke to go offside when scoring the go-ahead goal. The assistant referee got the call right, if VAR and the center looked closer at the play, they would see that Burke's entire front leg and body were well past the last defender. Had Casseres played the ball a second earlier Burke would've been onside, and it would've been a clear goal. Fortunately for Red Bull, the center referee got the VAR check wrong and reversed the assistant referee's call on the field of offside. So, the goal that was scored and waved off in the 38' was re-awarded in the 40' of play to Burke. Having been a referee in the beautiful game it was disappointing to see the correct call on the field get turned to the wrong call when the technology is supposed to make sure we always get the right call. In the dying minutes of the half, Sean Nealis came up big stopping a sure goal for Montreal to tie the game again. He ran back and managed to kick the ball away just before the forward could get the strike off. Sean also continued battling Chinonso Offor who got so upset that he was playing bad he threw a fake punch at S. Nealis's head in the dying minutes of the half, the referee let him go unpunished for his actions but did give a strong tongue lashing.

I think we continue to make a lot of positive strides in the last, you know, 12, 14 days. Most importantly, it's been the players. I told them, you know, on Monday, whenever everything went down 12 days ago, we are responsible for the position, everyone in this room, for where we are. And by the way, we are going to be the ones responsible for getting ourselves out of it. Our players have taken on the accountability, and that's the difference, ultimately. -- NY Red Bull Head Coach Troy Lesesne

The second half saw the Red Bull and Montreal go at each other hard, the half was filled with high-scoring chances and hard fouls early. Then the moment came that everyone around the league was waiting for Troy Lesesne to call on Dante Vanzeir, to the shock of many Dante was cheered by the crowd, and not a boo could be heard. It seems the fans and supporters are ready to give Dante a chance at redemption and well Dante tried to repay the crowd for the support. Dante was a player possessed in the second half when he got the nod in the 66', after Barlow and Burke missed many golden chances with poor touches. Lesesne also brought on Cam Harper with Dante and the two were hell-bent to find the back of the net. Unfortunately for the duo, Tom Barlow is still a Red Bull and got in the way of their chances at glory. I'm not sure what it will take for the front office to admit failure with Barlow and ship him out but it's definitely puzzling, yes Barlow gets open, and he is tall, but that's all his positives. As bad as Cory Burke's first touches have been this season Tom Barlows are even worse, the man literally messed up a 50+ yard breakaway this season and 3 inside 20 yards. Even youth players don't have that track record in this sport. The Red Bull should've won this match decisively by a 5 or 6 to 1 margin. Instead, Barlow did everything in his power to keep Belgian striker Dante Vanzeir and young Cam Harper off the score sheet. At some point someone needs to sit Barlow down and show him how poor runs and bad first touches are an issue, it's not the occasional mess up it's basically a chronic condition at this point in time. I fully get Troy likes to have his players back, but his loyalty is to a fault with this player.

The Red Bull will be back in action on Tuesday, May 23, at 7:30 P.M. EST for the U.S. Open Cup matchup against FC Cincinnati who have been hot this season led by Brandon Vazquez who like Sean Nealis should be on the roster for the U.S. National team.

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