The New York Red Bulls avenged their loss to the Colorado Rapids in the snow from last season with a shutout victory over the defensive juggernaut in a freezing cold Red Bull Arena.
With the best goalkeeper in MLS history minding the net and a defense that allowed only 32 goals in 34 games last season coming to town, there were more than a few reasons fans weren't exactly eager to brave freezing weather to watch RBNY on Saturday.
Tim Howard made numerous big saves on shots from Bradley Wright-Phillips, Daniel Royer and Felipe that would've struck gold four out of five times against other goalkeepers.
Thankfully, the Red Bulls were bailed out by their second straight own goal to give them a lead before the end of the first half. A lead they would maintain for the rest of the game en route to the 1-0 win.
We get by with a little help from our friends.— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) March 11, 2017
1-0 #NYvCOL | #RBNY pic.twitter.com/abQujnBM1Y
In fairness, referee Robert Sibiga was very generous to the Red Bulls with his calls, twice declining to give Colorado penalty kicks for moves in the box that most referees would call immediately.
Referees making calls in our favor? No blown leads? Own goals bouncing our way? Two straight wins to start the season? What is this madness?!
This madness is the start of the Red Bulls 2017 MLS campaign, which for the first time since 2010 has begun with back-to-back wins.
In 2016, it took the Red Bulls eight weeks to get six points on the MLS table. Fast forward to Saturday March 11, 2017 and the Red Bulls are sitting pretty at the top of the table with a two-point cushion in the Eastern Conference.
Time will tell if the Red Bulls can maintain this level of play, but for now it's good to see a win or two after a winter of discontent.
Here are the RBNY player ratings vs Colorado Rapids:
Luis Robles - 9
How can you give anything less than a perfect score to a goalkeeper who kept the clean sheet, had to make up for a defender's mistakes several times and made a crucial lead-saving stop with his shin?
Kemar Lawrence - 8
At times Lawrence looked like a bona-fide winger with how deep he was attacking the ball. And when the tackle didn't go his way he quickly caught up to his target.
Aaron Long - 8
This was a real up and down performance for Long. On one hand he flew to the ball and kept the ball well clear of the box; on the other hand, he made several mistakes that required teammates to bail him out in order to avoid goals.
Damien Perrinelle - 7
Perrinelle looked five years younger on Saturday, displaying great speed. But he made a few errors that could have been costly.
Sal Zizzo - 7
Every one of the Red Bulls defenders played their heart out on Saturday, and Zizzo did his fair share of the dirty work.
Sean Davis - 8
Davis must have been meditating this morning because he showed exceptional balance throughout the game. He tackled well, maintained possession, would not be knocked off the ball, and generally kept Colorado's players on their toes.
Felipe - 7
If not for Tim Howard's freakish athleticism, Felipe likely would have had a free kick goal in the second half. That said, he put in a solid day's work.
Sacha Kljestan - 7
Two things seem obvious about Sacha Kljestan right now: His ball skills are as sharp as ever (A back-footed nutmeg?! I mean come on), and he is struggling mightily to make an impact in the new system.
We see you, @SachaKljestan pic.twitter.com/pQIswegeSa— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2017
Daniel Royer - 8
Boy did Royer fly around the field today! His footwork was superb, frequently slipping the ball (and himself) past defenders to create chances or at least maintain possession.
Bradley Wright-Phillips - 7
Give BWP credit, many of the greatest players in MLS history have tried and failed to get the ball past Tim Howard. As long as his speed and elusiveness is still there, there shouldn't be concern about his finishing issue.
Derrick Etienne Jr. - 6
In his first-ever MLS start, Etienne displayed some of the fancy footwork that made him a fan-favorite at NYRBII. But he is still struggling with silly mistakes - all of which can be corrected over time.
Mike Grella (for Etienne) - 5
He struggled to make anything happen in the beginning, but Grella put in a few solid chances and kept the ball away from the Rapids in the last 15 minutes.
Aurelien Collin (for Perrinelle) - 7
Though his recent stint on the bench has raised eyebrows, Collin made sure that the quality of the defense didn't miss a beat when he replaced Perrinelle.
Fredrik Gulbrandsen (for BWP) - N/A
Though he only had about five minutes of time on the field, Gulbrandsen gave fans a nice preview of his speed and ball control skills. His knowledge of the 4-2-2-2 system from RB Salzburg appeared to be a big help.