Red Bulls Blank D.C. – Three Things I Noticed

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HARRISON, NJ - FEBRUARY 22: New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) passes during the first half of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal game between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the New York Red Bulls on February 22, 2017, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(HARRISON, NJ)- New York Red Bulls earned a massive result to start their three-game home stand. D.C. United never looked up to the task, even if they caused some moments of panic from the NY backline. It was a return to form for a team that desperately needed it.

Red Bulls Blank D.C. – Three Things I Noticed

Despite this being their third win of the season, it was the first they truly earned from the opening whistle. Can New York keep the momentum going? Here’s three things I noticed.

Play It Again Sam

The Red Bulls have always seemed to struggle against former players. It seemed to be worse the more well liked the player had been. Lloyd Sam had been a fan favorite during his tenure with NY, and his presence on the field for rival D.C. is still hard for some fans to stomach.

With Sam, D.C. gained a hard working creative winger that can turn a game in his best moments. Naturally, the Red Bulls would have to handle the situation delicately. Sam had burned them in the 2016, earning a penalty against Kemar Lawrence. This time, Lawrence came out on top.

Sam moved centrally on many occasions to find space away from the Jamaican wingback. The few times he tried to take on Lawrence 1-v-1, he came up short. Some of this can be attributed to New York’s familiarity with Sam, but Lawrence deserves plenty of credit.

Despite the importance of marking Sam, Kemar still committed to the attack and but D.C. on their heels a few times. It was an encouraging performance from a player that has seen his share of highs and lows in NY.

Oldies But Goodies

Midweek, I spoke about how some other players needed to pick up the offensive burden. While Sacha provided an assist, it was Alex Muyl standing out throughout the match. Muyl had the second most shots on the night. His goal was well earned and deserved.

Daniel Royer picked up some of the offense as well, putting in five chances of his own. With the offense spreading out, Red Bulls once again looked like their old selves. While it may be an over simplification of the issue, it is nonetheless true. With more players joining the attack, D.C. had trouble following along. These different looks moving forward opened up space for Bradley Wright-Phillips, and helped create additional chances for him as well.

The classics are classics for a reason. NY seems to understand that now.

The Eye Test

A lot has been made about the NY’s ability to create chances this season. Running the numbers from the first six games this year compared to last year told a different story. The Red Bulls have created just 2 less chances per game than last season. Finishing, just as it was last year, is the main issue.

Against D.C., the Red Bulls found a rhythm they had lacked so far this season. Part of the credit must be given to United. Through the first 60 minutes, United kept numbers back, looking to counter only. NY took the opportunity to link up in D.C’s half of the field. The results were NY creating a large number of chances in the run of play.

While NY has struggled against teams sitting back, United left all of the pressure out of the equation. Instead, they relied on a physical approach to make NY look over their shoulder and put them of balance. It worked in the first half, but D.C. couldn’t keep it up. The result was the most fluid offensive game of the season for NY. Jesse Marsch should think about sending a gift basket to Ben Olsen this week.

Scoring Summary

  • 46’ Alex Muyl (Sacha Kljestan)
  • 62’ BWP (Felipe)

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