NEWARK - The celebration will have to wait.
Playing for the opportunity to clinch a spot in the playoffs, the Jersey Express saw their four-game unbeaten streak come to an end with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Red Bulls U23 on Wednesday night at NJIT’s Lubetkin Field.
With the loss, the Express (8-3-2) fell out of first place in the Mid-Atlantic Division. Despite the defeat, the Express, who are currently in third place, can still qualify for the playoffs for the second straight year with a win on Saturday at Ocean City.
Zach Knudson scored two goals and Brian White added a goal and an assist for the Red Bulls (8-2-3), who can clinch the division title with a victory on Saturday against Westchester.
“We got two goals against us (early), goals that didn’t happen to us the entire season,” Express coach Anderson Da Silva said. “It happens, but unfortunately it happened tonight.
“The way we got scored on doesn’t represent the way we play as a team.”
Knudson put New York in front for good when he emerged from a scrum in front of the net and scored in the game’s 18th minute.
Sixteen minutes later, William Da Silva’s shot from outside the 18 was turned away by Red Bulls keeper Evan Louro. The Red Bulls then capitalized on the ensuing counter as White scored off a feed from Mael Corboz to make it 2-0.
The Jersey Express cut the deficit in half on a Carlos Vitor Alvarenga’s goal just under the crossbar in the 77th minute. But the momentum would be short lived as White’s cross from the end line was bicycle kicked into the net by Knudson as the golazo made it 3-1 in the 81st minute.
Overall, the Red Bulls held a 9-8 advantage in shots and 5-3 edge in corner kicks. Louro made three saves while the Jersey Express’ Matthew Turner had four saves.
Despite the disappointment of Wednesday night, Da Silva knows there isn’t any time to dwell on the defeat.
“I told them let’s just leave with our heads up because this is not over,” he said. “We have one more game. We’re focused and confident that we’re going to go out there and win that last game to qualify for the playoffs.”