The New York Red Bulls are officially flying: this was their third consecutive win and third consecutive clean sheet; the team has bagged 11 goals in that span, as well as much-needed points. This win cements RBNY's return to the race it expected to be in this season: for the Eastern Conference title (at least), rather than merely scrabbling around for a playoff berth.
A few quick observations of RBNY's latest victory:
The team played this game very well, shrugging off the frustration of the first meeting with TFC - when the game-plan never got off the drawing board and Toronto took three points out of Red Bull Arena on the opening day of the season.
The Red Bulls are still digging themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves with their inept early-season play (even after this result, the team has still lost more games than it has won in the league so far this year), but this result carries forward the impressive momentum RBNY has gathered since beating Orlando in late April - and particularly since grinding out a 1-0 win over Chicago two weeks ago.
In this instance, the Red Bulls confronted the memory of that opening game of the season: all those missed chances ultimately conspiring to leave the team vulnerable to TFC's late sucker-punches. Leading the way in banishing those thoughts was Bradley Wright-Phillips, who capped his 100th appearance for RBNY in all competitions with a record-setting hat-trick.
NEW @MLS RECORD for @TheRealBWP for the fastest hat trick to start a game in 27 minutes. Previous record s Dwayne Rosario in 2011 (31 min).— Jason Baum (@JasonBaumPR) May 28, 2016
Not for the first time: thank you, BWP.
2. Gonzalo Veron has some thinking to do
Whatever Veron was thinking when he bunny-hopped into a tackle (was it even really a tackle?) and an entirely-deserved straight red card, it wasn't clever or coherent.
What are you doing Veron? That's a straight red. pic.twitter.com/OQNBJ0Szcd— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) May 28, 2016
That was simply a very silly thing to do on a soccer pitch, at any level, under any circumstances.
Veron has endured a frustrating start to his career with RBNY: intermittent on-field engagements without ever enjoying the sort of extended run of minutes most players need to find their best form. Now he will serve a suspension and have to fight his way back into the starting lineup once again.
The first team gets a little break now, and there are competitions upcoming - US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League - that might be just the opportunity Veron needs to stretch his legs and find his best. He's getting in his own way at the moment. It is to be hoped his forthcoming suspension provides whatever chance he might need to clear his head and focus on the task of proving what many observers believe to be an obvious truth: he's the most talented player in this RBNY squad.
3. Hello encroachment, my old friend
You may remember encroachment as the element of the rule book that cost RBNY a run in the 2012 playoffs. And cost Roy Miller some portion of his sanity.
Fair to say the Red Bulls have suffered at encroachment's hands in recent years. This game did not carry anything like the significance of the 2012 incident that famously made Kenny Cooper cry (and precipitated perhaps Tim Cahill's finest - private - moment for RBNY), but it was still nice to experience the disappointment of watching the other guys score from the penalty spot, then the delight of seeing that kicked called back, and finally the joy of witnessing Luis Robles win the PK guessing game at the second time of asking.
First penalty called back for encroachment. Second is saved. pic.twitter.com/22tvhy2C70— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) May 29, 2016
Welcome back to Red Bull Arena, encroachment. Please don't stick around, but nice to see you in a more pleasant context.