The New York Red Bulls have somehow managed to beat the two best teams in MLS in the same amount of weeks. They now have sole ownership of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are tied with Real Salt Lake at the top of the table and the lead for the Supporter's Shield. Coming fresh off a hard fought win in Kansas City, something New York has been unable to do in quite some time, the Red Bulls are playing full of confidence. So let's take a look at last Saturday's match and see who deserves some extra praise...or swift kick in the pants.
The "What a Cannon" Award, Best Leg Category: Johnny Steele
After missing his first clear shot off of a beautiful through-ball from Thierry Henry earlier in the match, Johnny Steele unleashed a rocket on net in the twenty-seventh minute. It seemed like the ball had already slingshotted out of the goal before Jimmy Nielsen even realized a shot had been taken. This is the second time this season that Steele has been able to show just how deadly his left foot can be.
The "What a Cannon" Award, Best Arm Category: Luis Robles
This is one you might want to watch a few more times. In the sixty-ninth minute, New York keeper Luis Robles did his best impression of an elite (Watch your back Eli!) NFL quarterback by launching a pin point pass to Johnny Steele, who received the ball at his feet (just past the half field line, no less) to begin a counter attack that would finish with Loyd Sam putting one home. Say what you will about Robles' tendency for coughing up rebounds, he had an almost Man of the Match worthy game on Saturday.
The "Marco Di Vaio" Award: Fabian Espindola
I've been pretty critical of Fabian Espindola over the last few weeks and I still believe that he gives the ball away too easily and too often, but the Argentine striker took a page out of Di Vaio's book on Saturday and rode the offside line all match long. The strategy paid off big time and gave New York their second goal of the day. Espindola seems to be getting used to the current game plan that is being implemented by coach Mike Petke and that can only mean more goals to come.
The "Thanks for Keeping the Net Cool" Award: Peguy Luyindula
Poor Peguy. Poor, Poor Peguy Luyindula. While I'm sure Jimmy Nielsen appreciated the fanning in the hot Kansas City sun, us Red Bull supporters would really love it if you'd start putting the ball somewhere within the vicinity of the goal. Luyindula's biffed attempt in the eightieth minute was enough to make even the most patient fan throw his/her hands in the air and give up hope....but let's not act to quickly. Peguy's problems with finishing are clearly mental and need to be fixed...but aside from that, he's been a solid sub for us. He is constantly finding himself in the right positions, his hold up play has been stellar and his distribution has been top notch. Maybe it's time to try him out in the midfield. That would take away the constant pressure to score and still lend to his obvious skill set.
The "Aw Shucks" Award: Loyd Sam
That was the Loyd Sam we've all been waiting to see. Coming on around the sixtieth minute for a struggling Eric Alexander, Sam made an immediate impact in the match and ignited New York's attack. Although he was unfortunately sidelined with a quad injury a short time later, he was able to take advantage of the few minutes he had by registering a goal and an assist. More important and the cause for this award, were Sam's words after the match, "That was a big win and it's united our team....We done a huddle after the game, which I haven't seen us do since I've been here....It was all down to team spirit." Aw shucks, Loyd. You hit us right in the feels. Now let's see if that "unity" can last through the rest of the season.