(Sacha Kljestan of the Red Bulls)
There are some moments that, when they happen, you know a team’s fortunes have changed.
It took nearly two months into this season, but the New York Red Bulls found that moment on Friday night in their 4-0 win over FC Dallas.
It was a moment in which all the angst over a 1-6-0 start melts away, and they can start to enjoy the game again.
It also showed that a follow-up from their 3-2 win over Orlando City FC on Sunday was reality, that they would finally claim back-to-back victories.
Leading 1-0 in the opening minutes of the second half, Lloyd Sam fired a rocket from midfield that went off the crossbar.
It ricocheted back to the top of the box, where Sacha Kljestan headed it in, and sent Red Bull Arena into a frenzy as the Red Bulls were up 2-0 in the 52nd minute.
Even Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch danced down the sidelines when Kljestan headed it in.
Kljestan said of the goal, “You know, most of the time you’re just admiring a beautiful play by Lloyd (Sam), but for some reason as soon as he shot it I had this picture in my mind that the ball was going to bounce off the crossbar and nobody else was going to react but me and I was going to be there to tap that in. It went exactly how I played it in my mind, it was crazy, you know. Just a bit opportunistic by me and a bit of effort but it was an easy goal in the end. Lloyd made an amazing play to put it on the target.”
Marsch said of the highlight-reel play, “What a great second goal, right? It came from doing a lot of the things that we try to do: playing forward, pressing, going after the ball, being alert.”
The Red Bulls kept the momentum going, and in the 72nd minute, Sam fed it to Kljestan on the right side, and he flicked it to the center of the crease, where Mike Grella drilled it to make it 3-0 Red Bulls.
In the 83rd minute, off a set piece, Alex Muyl dropped it off to Felipe at the top of the box, and he fired a rocket in to make it 4-0.
They dominated the game, with 60 percent possession for the game, and pounded in 17 shots, while limiting Dallas to few top scoring chances.
Marsch said of what stood out in this one, “Overall I thought the way we, again, put our stamp on the game, played the way we wanted to play, put pressure on them, that was a very good night for us.”
Kljestan said of how satisfying the win is, “The message now is that we’re not going to look back. So, as for tonight, a pretty dominant performance. Always good to play at home, kind of when your backs are against the wall, and now we can put ourselves on a winning streak after a very fine performance tonight.”
Marsch said of maintaining the momentum going forward, “I’ve seen the confidence growing for the past few weeks, right? I’ve seen that this group, even though we’ve been through some tough times, that they’ve gotten more and more confident and they’ve understood more and more what this was really going to take, right?
“Life is funny. The game is funny. All these different things. How to be a good team. There’s no manual, right? I mean, there’s all kinds of leadership books and all kinds of tactical analyses and everything else.
“In the end, it’s about how hard guys want to commit to being real, playing for each other, caring for each other. Sometimes, it takes really, really hard moments to fully understand how much it means to you.
“I think this group is now in a place where they understand it. They get it. They can’t wait to, again, show it when the lights come on,” said Marsch.
The Red Bulls, for the first time this season, looked like the team that won the Supporters’ Shield last year.
Marsch said of everything coming together in this one as well as the Supporters’ Shield defense, “Even that being said, I thought we could have, and should have gotten the lead earlier, right, then could have kind of pushed at that point.
“But like I said last time we all sat here (Sunday), I believe in things that are real. When I look at this team, I know it’s real. Yeah, we haven’t gotten breaks, we gave away too many goals, there were moments where we were rattled a little bit in the beginning parts of the season.
“But, again, I think we used that to strengthen us. If we were worried about, after coming out of the Supporters’ Shield, about being complacent, that’s gone. Now, it’s hunger to try to prove ourselves. Everybody thinks that we’re no good. I think that’s created the chip on the shoulder.
“In the end, we’ve got to use that tough start as motivation always to make us better and help drive us to where we want to go,” said Marsch.
Red Bulls winger Mike Grella said of the team’s goals going into this one, “Nothing new for us, it was the same thing that we’re always doing. Just working hard as a group, being sharp, being better with the ball, being tight at the back, defending and attacking as a group. And, you know, listen, we’re doing the same things, it’s just we’re starting to raise the level and really get it going now.”