HARRISON, N.J. — Finally, for once this season, the New York Red Bulls clutched victory from the jaws of defeat.
After defender John Tolkin conceded a penalty in the 88th minute, Red Bulls keeper Carlos Coronel saved New York skins with a save on Unai Bilbao.
Just moments later, in the second minute of stoppage time, Dante Vanzeir slotted his second goal of the match to complete his first brace as a member of the Red Bulls to lift his side to a 2-1 victory over Mexican side Atletico de San Luis on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena in Leagues Cup action.
“It was just like we drew it up,” Red Bulls head coach Troy Lesesne said with a sarcastic grin. “Carlos come up with a major save like that only for [Tolkin] to play a brilliant ball to Dante.”
The result secures an East 4 group win for the Red Bulls, ensuring they avoid Liga MX powerhouse Pumas in the Round of 32 to be played this week. Instead, they get a derby match against NYCFC on Thursday night at Red Bull Arena.
“We as players needed to keep our emotions in check,” Coronel said through a translator. “I’m happy because I saved the penalty… and after we scored a goal so everybody was happy.”
San Luis appeared as though it would pull off an improbable comeback victory to crash the Red Bulls out of the Leagues Cup altogether. Jhon Murillo drew the visitors level in the 69th minute when he headed a rebound off a save by Coronel into an open net. The Red Bulls keeper was called into action on a Dieter Villalpando volley off an attempted clear from a free kick into the box.
Murillo didn’t have to move as Coronel’s save floated directly to his head for the easy finish.
“I hated that we gave up that goal because he made a fantastic save on the first attempt,” Lesesne said. “They were able to put in the rebound and I think he deserved a clean sheet on the night. But how he’s been able to step up in the last two games and really bring us back and swing the momentum in our favor is really impressive.”
It canceled out Vanzeir’s 56th-minute header off a Tolkin corner that lifted New York into the lead.
Goals have been hard to come by for the Belgian, who was signed in the early portions of the season to provide a boost up front. Yet these were his fourth and fifth goals of the season in all competitions and his first since June 21 against Charlotte.
“It’s amazing, it’s my job, so when I can’t score in a game it’s always like, even if I play good, it’s kind of disappointing,” Vanzeir said. “I feel great. I was waiting a little bit for my goal and especially for a brace. Let’s hope this is the start of many more. It’s a very great feeling.”
“He’s getting more and more comfortable as someone we depend on to create chances,” Lesesne added. “I think it was a huge moment for him to be able to get his first brace for the club and I think he’s going to be able to continue to be in the form that he’s in if not take another big step forward.”
Luquinhas, who had gotten the wind knocked out of him just moments earlier, appeared to put the Red Bulls ahead in the seventh minute when he cleaned up a loose ball right in front of the San Luis goal. But it was deemed that a Red Bulls attacker was stationed in an offside position on the San Luis goal line following a VAR check. Head coach Troy Lesesne’s constant protests toward the fourth official in hopes of an explanation earned him a yellow card in the process.
San Luis had a goal of their own disallowed in the 19th minute when Murillo, who was played in behind the Red Bulls’ defense and slotted his breakaway chance home, started his run too early.
Overcoming a San Luis push at the start of the second half, the Red Bulls continued their push with four successive corners in five minutes, ultimately culminating in Vanzeir’s goal.
Following Murillo’s equalizer, Vanzeir made a strong attempt for a second when he meandered toward the top of the box in the 81st minute, fizzing a low shot through a defender that San Luis keeper Diego Urtiaga did well to turn away at his left post.
After shaking a chance in the middle of the box in the 83rd minute, Vanzeir’s second chance in two minutes was a tame shot right at Urtiaga.
It looked like it was all for naught when Tolkin took down Léo Bonatini in the box for a San Luis penalty, but Coronel snuffed out Bilbao’s chance for the game-winner, diving to his right to save the low shot. Breaking out of their own end in haste, it was Tolkin that played Vanzeir through for the game-winner.
“It was a rollercoaster of emotions,” Vanzeir said. “I think in the end we deserved it more, it’s not stolen from them.”