April was a fun month in Red Bull land. Not quite the parade of victories a fan of this club hopes for, but the New York Red Bulls are still undefeated in MLS. In April, the team collected three draws and a win. RBNY is one point off the top of the Eastern Conference, three points off the summit of the Supporters' Shield table, and has games in hand on both the teams it is chasing in those races (New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps). Not a bad start to the season at all.
But if we get sucked into dwelling on the USL team's results, we're doing it wrong (and we're really doing it wrong if we dwell on attendance). NYRB II is to be judged on its role in producing players who make RBNY better in MLS. Good on-field results along the way are simply a bonus. If the club gets distracted from that purpose by chasing wins or trying to pack the stands in Harrison or (waay) uptown Manhattan, it's getting pushed off course. All worthy ambitions, but a popular or winning reserve team is not nearly as important as one that develops players for a popular and winning first team.
And none of this is relevant to April's Goal of the Month competition. All this post cares about is goals.
OaM's RBNY GotM (acronyms ahoy!) considers ALL the goals scored in competitive games by both the first team and the USL side. In April, that means we have to consider six goals scored by RBNY and five by NYRB II. To reduce those to four nominees for this month, OaM's contributors had a vote.
Well...first, we had an argument. Because it happens that all the goals we're showcasing this month were scored at Red Bull Arena. And some at OaM contend that this is the best goal scored at the Arena in April.
Democracy is not without controversy. That is a fine strike. But here are the four nominees for OaM's RBNY Goal of the Month, April Edition.
1. History: Anatole Abang (vs. TFC II, April 4)
Sean Davis lofts a pass over the top and Abang tracks the ball in the air, meeting it on the edge of the six-yard box to volley home for NYRB II's first competitive goal...ever.
It was also Abang's first competitive goal as a Red Bull. And Davis's first competitive assist as a professional. So NYRB II's first goal was also a first glance at exactly what we hope the team will do: get young talent used to playing together in productive ways we hope to see them replicate when they get their chance in MLS.
2. Rugged individualism: Shawn McLaws (vs. TFC II, April 4)
The rookie right back gets one-on-one with a defender on the edge of the box, and he has choices: early cross, cut inside, or...cut outside, accelerate past his marker, and slot home a shot as soon as he has the space to tee it up.
NYRB II has a bunch of young players who are exciting on the ball and capable of producing something out of nothing. Before this goal, very few observers of the team would have suggested McLaws was part of that group - but you cannot argue with evidence. An excellent, individual goal.
3. Teamwork: Mike Grella (vs. San Jose, April 17)
From RBNY's first - and only - win in April. This goal is one of the better examples of the attacking system Jesse Marsch is seeking to implement this season.
Lloyd Sam carries the ball forward, and he pushes into the defensive third, a unit of RBNY players gathers - giving Sam options. Bradley Wright-Phillips takes the central channel, cutting in to goal and picking up two markers. That opens up space in the middle of the 18-yard box, which Sacha Kljestan occupies. Chris Duvall and Felipe Martins are on the edge of the area, also offering options in case the defense shuts down the opportunities inside the box. And Mike Grella is lurking for a far post run.
When Sam looks up, BWP is locked down and hard to reach, but Kljestan is open. Marvell Wynne spots the danger - and leaves his position (half-covering BWP, half-covering the back post) to help shut down Kljestan, who had scored RBNY's opening goal.
But Wynne's run leaves the back post open, and Sam sees the space. The cross is perfectly flighted to land inside the six-yard box at the far post - and Grella connects with a first-time, left-footed volley that slots the ball back toward the near post. The 'keeper, scrambling to his right, cannot adjust: 2-0 to the Red Bulls.
An extremely well executed goal that illustrates exactly the sort of running and thinking Marsch wants from RBNY in the attacking third this season.
4. Fortune favors Felipe: F. Martins (vs. LA Galaxy, April 26)
Very often, because soccer is a cruel game, a team will do everything right and still not get the outcome it was seeking. In this case, with RBNY needing a goal to get back into the game against LA, Sal Zizzo makes a great run down the left and gets exactly the sort of low cross into the six-yard box that one hopes to see. BWP has made the right run, to the right spot, and he connects - but AJ DeLaGarza has also made the right run to the right spot.
BWP's shot is blocked, and it skews away from goal. Nine times out of ten, that's another near miss and RBNY is cursing its luck, while DeLaGarza is rightly praised for some agile defending. This time around, however, Felipe has also made exactly the right run, to the right spot. And the ball bounces off his face into goal.
A lucky goal, for sure. But, much like Kljestan's goal against San Jose, a big part of the attacking strategy is getting the ball to BWP in front of goal and seeing what happens when the entire defense is focused on shutting down the 2014 Golden Boot winner.
Now it's over to you, readers! Vote! We'll announce the winner next week.
And if you think we missed one, let us know in the comments.