It’s coming together for the New York Red Bulls. It really is. The goals are starting to pile up and the defensive press with Luis Robles in goal continues to be as impenetrable as the Great Wall of China. The Columbus Crew were not up to the task of scaling this wonder as the Red Bulls stunned the Crew 2-0 at Red Bull Park last night
The Reds came out with spark and sizzle as they looked fully in synch with the flex system, better known as the 4-3-2-1 that Head Coach Jesse Marsch has worked hard to implement. It was a joy to see it work. For the second consecutive game though it was Alex Muyl who benefitted, scoring his second goal in two games and in both cases starting things off right as he caught a rebound in front of goal and beat Zack Steffen. The work he and other youngsters do with coach Chris Armas on shooting in the box area has paid off. “I think he’s always been good tactically, always worked his butt off,” Red Bull Captain Sacha Kljestan said, “I think now it’s got to a point where his confidence is rising and he trains a lot around goal.”
The Red Bulls were up 1-0 eleven minutes in, quickly capitalizing on a Columbus team who started off shaky after losing Artur to injury less than a minute in. “It always helps. We talk about too many times this season we go one down and have to claw our way back,” Sacha Kljestan said, “How it would be nice to, especially the way we play, to take an early lead and make teams come out of their shells.”
The problem with bringing a team like the Columbus Crew out of their shell is that they have the quality type attackers to push any defense to it’s limits as they led the Eastern Conference in goals scored going into this game. Luis Robles was a level above tonight and off-set the Crew offense. He was lucky at times but he was mostly good. He even absorbed a shot to the face to snuff out a threat, “I hope after the swelling goes down, I get better looking,” Robles laughed afterwards.
The Red Bulls as a team can afford to laugh and feel good about the effort tonight. They made the 4-3-2-1 work and the benificiaries were Bradley-Wright Phillips and Sacha Kljestan. “That’s one of the nice things, creating familiarity with the two strikers. We can flux back and forth and keep our shape and understanding to what the responsibilities are,” Red Bull Head Coach Jesse Marsch said, “The main function is it gets the best out of Brad and Sacha, who are our two best players and two of the best in the league. It’s important to maximize their abilities.” It worked. Sacha in the center was in familiar ground and with more touches, the more pure the attack became. This paid off as Kemar Lawrence and Sacha assisted on a ball to Bradley.
Wright-Phillips sprinted into the box and was swept off his feet and Daniel Royer hit the penalty for his second goal of the year and a 2-0 lead. This was the one that brought a rare chance for breathing room. It also helps to specialize in an area that takes pressure off the stars. “Danny is the designated penalty taker and I’m glad he stepped up and buried it,” Kljestan said. “It’s no secret we had issues with penalties. Danny is one of our best takers in training and after the Champions Cup we made the decision. He puts in a lot of work and this will give him confidence.”
The second half was about holding the advantage and looking for the elusive third goal. They never got it but a plethora of chances presented themselves as Royer, Bradley-Phillips, Etienne, Jr. all took turns taking quality chances but Crew goaltender Steffan became just as determined to not give any more this night.
Marsch was worried at about the 55th minute sensing that changes may be in order as Columbus came out smoking to get back in the game. “I thought we might be in for a long half and I was thinking about a sub and a tactical change,” Marsch confided afterwards, “Then all of a sudden we started to get a grasp on the game. We weathered the storm and then felt we grew into the half.”
The back four made the lead hold up as Aurelien Collin quarterbacked the line and displayed a few spectacular breakups and Tyler Adams continued to eat up turf defensively. “The way he covers and can run while pressing or counter-pressing or taking a ball with space and running 50 yards to relieve pressure, it’s all these little details,” said Marsch.
The Red Bulls recorded their second straight shutout but it was more of a total team effort defensively that won the day. “I felt our defense, not just the back four, but the sixes and the guys up front put up a hard game which limited their opportunities,” Robles pointed out. “When we play Columbus they stylistically challenge what we do. They are good at what they do and the challenge is to be good at what we do. The guys emptied their tanks out tonight to accomplish this, Marsch added.
Home cooking is agreeing with New York as they look to complete a three game homestand this upcoming Saturday which will be Autism Awareness Night against the Chicago Fire. This win puts New York at 4-3-1 with 13 points tying Columbus at the top of the table. “For us to get the shutout is great, to get the three points is even better and for us to do it against a good team in the conference is the best part.”
Luis Vazquez (@Cyberj2000)