This was the best performance the New York Red Bulls have had all season. For the first time this year, RBNY has a result to match the dominant stats the team has been posting, mostly without reward. But this wasn't just a win to restore faith in statistics, this was a win against a solid FC Dallas: a team that swaggered into Red Bull Arena as the leader in the Supporters' Shield race, a team that has become the talisman of the league's #PlayYourKids fetish, a team basically outperforming RBNY in almost every conceivable area so far in 2016.
But the Red Bulls came out hot from the kick-off. And once the first goal arrived, they simply got hotter.
The first strike came in the 37th minute. Lloyd Sam finally got his first of the season from a well-rehearsed set piece that didn't so much come from the training ground as RBNY's 2015 highlight reel.
A foul just a yard or two outside the Dallas area saw four Red Bulls hovering around the ball; when the whistle blew, the crowd parted for Sacha Kljestan to chip long to Sal Zizzo, all alone at the back post. He headed the ball back across goal, and Sam did the rest.
RBNY took a lead into locker room at half-time for the first time this season, and celebrated by doubling it shortly after the restart.
In the 52nd minute, Sam, who looked sharp all night, one-touched a miscued clearance at goal, catching 'keeper Jesse Gonzalez way out of position. The shot clanged off the crossbar, but Kljestan charged in to put away the rebound.
Mike Grella would add his third of the season in the 71st minute, as the Red Bulls continued to pound away at the FCD defense. Sam breached the back line with a pass that Felipe instantly redirected toward the six-yard box - and Grella powered home the header.
That goal made Grella RBNY's leading scorer for the season to date. Not to be outdone, Felipe added his third of the season in the 83rd minute, drawing level with Grella in the club's Golden Boot race and putting the game well beyond the visitors' reach. It was also nice to see Alex Muyl earn the first assist of his nascent MLS career on Felipe's goal.
"Obviously a very good performance against a really good team. I thought that they executed the game plan and stuck to the way we wanted to play and controlled the tempo for the entirety of the match, for 90 minutes." said Jesse Marsch, "In the tough moments, we tried to continue to reinforce all the things about confidence, belief, who we are, what we're about, that in tough moments you get stronger. I feel like we're in a good place right now."
Marsch also offered this message on his team's current state of mind: "I said last time we all sat here, I believe in things that are real. When I look at this team, I know it's real. Yeah, we haven't gotten breaks, we gave away too many goals, there were moments where we were rattled a little bit in the beginning parts of the season.
But, again I think we used that to strengthen us. If we were worried about, after coming out of the Supporters' Shield, about being complacent, that's gone. Now it's hunger to try to prove ourselves. Everybody thinks that we're no good. I think that's created a chip on our shoulder."
RBNY carries that chip and a two-game winning streak to the Magic Kingdom to take on Orlando City again, on May 6. OCSC doubtless would like a little revenge after last week's mugging at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls will enjoy the unusual circumstance of meeting a familiar opponent and an unfamiliar teammate: recently acquired Aurelien Collin might see his first minutes as a Red Bull against the team that just traded him.