In the five games comprising New York's 2014 playoff run, Peguy Luyindula provided three of the team's eight goals, and assisted on two more. In the New York Red Bulls' most successful playoff run since its lone MLS Cup appearance in 2008, one player was directly responsible for over 60% of all the team's goals, and his name wasn't Thierry Henry.
Statistically, that's just astonishing. But Peguy's play is much more than just statistics. He was the catalyst off the bench that sparked New York's rally past Sporting Kansas City in the first round, providing two (secondary) assists - including the defense-splitting pass that gave Ambroise Oyongo time and space for the greatest scuffed cross in RBNY history.
His fantastic play forced himself into the starting lineup against DC, where he was ethereal. Peguy Luyindula killed the boogeyman that was RFK in the playoffs. In what turned out to be the final games of Thierry Henry's legendary career, it was his friend, on whom the spotlight shone brightest.
Peguy was never really a goalscorer in his time at Red Bull Arena. Despite being described as a striker, finishing was never his greatest strength. It took a penalty, a ball thrust into his hands by Thierry Henry, for him to score his first goal. And that is what makes his performance in the 2014 playoffs all the more astounding. He scored just six regular season goals in his entire Red Bull career (two of them from the penalty spot), Peguy somehow put away three in this magnificent playoff run. He scored one third of his career goals for RBNY during his last five games for the club.
As New York fans looked to have an aging team take one last shot at the championship - the championship that Mike Petke, Thierry Henry, and many others so rightfully deserved - it wasn't the stars of Tim Cahill or Thierry Henry who showed up. It wasn't the future captain Dax McCarty or the league leading goal-scorer, Bradley Wright-Philips, who took the game by the scruff of the neck. It wasn't the ever talented Lloyd Sam or the veteran Ibrahim Sekagya who found that breakthrough in the play, time and time again. No, it was the unassuming Frenchman who had struggled to find playing time earlier in the year. He took the reigns and refused to let go. Peguy Luyindula took control of New York's playoff run and never looked back.
Peguy Luyindula's playoff performance gave Red Bulls fans what they have been clamoring for: the near-mythical ideal of the extraordinary #10. He created chances left and right, linking play with his passes, and sliding past opponents with a slight shimmy and dip of his shoulder, aided by a surprising speed. His play opened up the field for his teammates to contribute, as opponents struggled to contain him. And yet, despite being a watched and wanted man, Peguy still managed to put away the series-sealing goal against DC at RFK, and slotted home the goal at Foxboro that rekindled Red Bulls' hope after New England had doused it with a late goal in the first leg of the Conference Finals.
It's not just what Peguy did that was astounding, it's what he didn't do as well. Peguy never slowed the play down unnecessarily; he was always around, always a threat. What he didn't do, for example, was touch the ball as it went past him in the box in the 40th minute of RBNY's first-leg playoff game against D.C. United. Henry backheeled a cross to BWP, but the tap-in was on because Peguy - between his captain and his top-scoring teammate - leaned away from the ball, bodying his marker out of the play and ensuring Wright-Phillips would have an open shot.
Peguy added in all facets of the game, leading New York by example.
Even when you look past all the fantastic plays and little intricacies of Peguy's game that didn't directly lead to goals, this is what he accomplished in the 2014 playoff run:
- Two secondary assists against SKC.
- One goal in the first game against DC.
- One goal in the second game against DC.
- One goal in the second game against New England.
The what-ifs and missteps that can be seen in that run to the Conference final, or lamented in that two-game series against New England: none can be blamed on Peguy. Peguy Luyindula carried New York forward in 2014, in what can only be described as one of the finest MLS Playoff performances ever seen.