RBNY knew it had a tough night ahead, hosting a Montreal Impact side in urgent need of points to avoid sliding into a battle for playoff qualification. But the Red Bulls had their own sense of urgency: to shake off the disappointment of back-to-back draws conceded from winning positions; to keep challenging for the Eastern Conference title; to clinch their own place in the post-season. A single goal from Daniel Royer was enough for three points and to meet all three of the home team's current objectives.
The New York Red Bulls were able to convert after a scoreless first half. Chris Duvall crossed a solid ball and Royer put himself into a good spot in front of the goal to just get a touch on it, providing the goal in 60th minute that would be the match-winner.
Tons of chaos from the Montreal defense, which was too often standing still inside its own area. RBNY's determination to press high and win second balls high up the pitch created the goal: Duvall stopped Ambroise Oyongo's clearing attempt and made that play happen.
Royer caught the eye repeatedly. Later in the second half, he made some magic with the ball at his feet by faking out many Impact defenders. When he lost the ball to Oyongo, he found a way to steal it back, bouncing a shot off the Montreal man to win a throw-in.
Ignacio Piatti was a dangerous player for the Impact early on in the match/ He had some great chances, but was either forced to shoot it wide or couldn't get the ball past Luis Robles.
With this win, despite everything that happened at the start of the 2016 season, the Red Bulls are in first place in the Eastern Conference and have clinched a spot to play in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"It took us thirty-one games to get us into first place. it took us thirty-one games to solidify a spot in the playoffs, after the first seven games it was a big hole that we dug and it was difficult moment for us as a group," said Jesse Marsch, "But we always try to use tough moments to make us stronger and that's been a hallmark of this team: that when times get tough they respond.
They don't back down. it would've been easy again to admit if we didn't have the two-zero lead or the one-zero lead and the confidence we had on the field when they were throwing things at us, our group was focused and took care of business. This is only the start. It's really key for us to keep pushing to get a top two seed and then set ourselves up for success come playoff time."
It has been quite the turnaround. History offers the memory of two memorably awful years when RBNY started horribly and continued horribly. But even the disastrous 1999 season started with three wins in the first four games (and ended with a seven-win, 25-loss record). The 2016 start carried disturbing echoes of 2009, when RBNY won just one of its first eight MLS games, exiting Giants Stadium on a sad note.
But 2016 is neither 1999 nor 2009. This time around RBNY was able to fight its way out of a bad run of form. Injuries have dogged the team all season, but the necessary reinforcements - especially Aurelien Collin, brought in to shore up the back line - and Bradley Wright-Phillips' outstanding form have helped get this club back to where it wanted to be.
The hiccups are well documented, especially the quit-while-head tendency that has seen the team drop too many points this season. But the entire year has been testament to the group's ability to refocus and confront its weaknesses. And the hope now is that the rest of the season will see RBNY's strengths come to the fore.