After the disappointment of losing yet another lead on the road, and coming home with a point when three seemed to be in the bag, the New York Red Bulls were hoping for a statement-win over New England Revolution. Back at Red Bull Arena, the frustrations endured in DC could perhaps be forgotten with an emphatic victory.
As it turned out, the victory was not emphatic - but maybe that makes it somehow all the sweeter.
The only goal of the match came in the 55th minute. Alex Muyl did very good work to retrieve an intercepted pass from Sacha Kljestan, then hold off Andrew Farrell to get a shot on frame. The save was made by Brad Knighton, but he punched the ball to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who immediately bagged the rebound.
It was BWP's 16th goal of the season and his 61st career MLS goal - a tally now being documented in real time (at least for home games) by a sign in Red Bull Arena. "It is what it is: I try to get the ball on target," said Wright-Phillips, "At home we are difficult to play against, so we have to get our wins at home, on the road we've had some points dropped. But draws on the road and wins at home tend to be a good season."
In the first half, the Red Bulls had the majority of the possession and had the better of the attacking play, but it was Knighton who stepped up and made the saves to keep his side in the match. "That was a tough goal to give up cause it felt like New York is a very good team...that situation shouldn't have happened," said Jay Heaps.
"I felt it led up to not being in the proper positions and I felt we had a good performance overall, but without scoring any goals it makes it real hard to get points. On Brad his play was good, he elevated his level and hopefully we can get this stuff sorted, but only giving up a goal in these two games is good," said the coach of a team that has lost five of its last six league games and needs to find some positives if the season is to be retrieved.
For Luis Robles, it looked like it might be quiet day. The Revolution didn't look strong attacking-wise in the first half, but that changed in the second half. Suddenly, the RBNY 'keeper was getting peppered by frequent Revs visits to his 18-yard box.
"It's a strange kind of busy with shots on goal and some crosses, but I believe they weren't utilizing their strengths," said Robles, "If they could've found Nguyen more and allow him to dictate play and become dangerous, instead they went Route One, trying to find Kamara every single time and for us it's easy to defend."
At the end of the day Jesse Marsch is happy to grind out a win and earn the full three points. "I think that we had some good performances tonight, that was clean and professional. New England did play their third game within a week and we were a bit unlucky not to find our chances .
You did feel like after the first half that we come out and stayed focused and concentrate on the tactics and on pushing the game and the goal was going to come - and if the second one wasn't coming we could close out this game and hold on for the win."
This was a milestone game in the development of RBNY's rookie homegrown player Alex Muyl. He looked more comfortable out on the field and started to show some versatility on the field attacking and trying to put a few moments together. Not just on the shot he took that opened the door for BWP's goal, but bringing up the ball and controlling the ball when he is passing.
"Alex has done so many things for us to establish himself with our team and to make us good. He drew a million things in the game to make us good and how you compete and the battles he's won - it's amazing. Now he needs to slow things down and try to get some poise when he takes shots on frame."
Muyl and the Red Bulls will be thoroughly tested by their next game: away to Vancouver. RBNY has never beaten the 'Caps. That record would be troubling under any circumstances. Given the team's current lack of confidence on the road, it is doubly concerning. All games are big games as the season draws close to its end. The Red Bulls shouldn't lack for motivation in preparation for the trip to Canada - but we all wait to see if they can deliver the away-day execution that has been mostly absent this season.