The New York Red Bulls knew they would have to work hard to keep the fires burning under the regular-season unbeaten streak they have been cooking at Red Bull Arena. Columbus Crew came in to Harrison hot and with a tactical plan that RBNY head coach Jesse Marsch knows is a challenge for his team:
It was always going to be a tough game. When we play against Columbus, they stylistically challenge what we do, they are good at what they do and the challenge is for us to be really good at what we do.
In the end, the Red Bulls aced the test, turning in a 2-0 win. The team is now unbeaten in 18 regular-season games at RBA and has shutout its opponent in 12 of those matches - including the last four straight at the Arena.
The opening goal came in the 11th minute. Alex Muyl scored his second of the season, and his second in consecutive matches. Sacha Kljestan came down the middle of the park and when he got close to the Columbus area, made a quick pass to Kemar Lawrence, who ran onto the ball and crossed in front of goal.
The delivery was deflected by Nicolai Naess, causing the ball to hop up on Muyl, but he controlled it enough to tap it in.
In the 38th minute, Daniel Royer converted from the spot to make it 2-0 to RBNY. RBNY’s latest penalty-taker went left with his shot, and ‘keeper Zack Steffen guessed correctly - but the shot had too much behind it to be stopped.
The penalty was won by Bradley Wright-Phillips, who surged into the Columbus area and was up-ended by Alex Crognale.
Crognale promptly became the Crew’s second casualty of the first half, and forced Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter into his second substitution. The first was midfielder Artur, who fell awkwardly in the first minute and broke his wrist.
The injuries had an effect on the Crew, but the team didn’t lie down. Luis Robles made some big saves in the second half to preserve the shutout, as Berhalter successfully conjured a positive performance from his players, despite the the events of the opening 45 minutes.
The Red Bulls exited the match level on points with Columbus at the top of the Eastern Conference. For Jesse Marsch, the team is once again benefiting from the work it puts in on the training ground:
The group has stuck together, has fought hard, has continued to get better each game. Has continued to get better each day, and ultimately that's what this takes.
So it's not about one result or two results or five results or one year. It's about over time, having a process of understanding how to commit to getting better. And we have that here. It's not just one or two players; it's literally a whole group, and you can go down to the USL team, the commitment that we have as an organization to find ways to grow and get better.
Still early stage of the season, but eight games under our belt, I feel like now we're getting to the point where we're starting to see ourselves get better every day.
Now the Red Bulls must reset for their final match of this three game home stand. That will bring the Chicago Fire to Red Bull Arena, with ex-RBNY captain Dax McCarty chomping at the bit for some revenge over the club that traded him away in the off-season.