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Seven minutes of heaven* - New York Red Bulls player ratings: @ Philadelphia Union; MLS 2017, Week 16

*Eight minutes, in point of fact - but who's counting?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It was not a flawless performance, and the New York Red Bulls were very fortunate indeed not to be at least a goal down at half-time - but they battled heat, themselves, and a determined Philadelphia Union to snatch a 2-0 win just around the time when recaps decrying the team's woeful finishing away from home were ready to be published.

It wasn't the usual RBNY performance this season: the team usually loses on the road. But it was also what we've come to expect from the Red Bulls in 2017: as soon as you're certain of something about them, they will find a way to defy that certainty.

In this case, they were certainly not going to win because they certainly could not score. And then they did. Twice.

The player ratings are jubilant.

Luis Robles - 8

He was credited with three saves and the Union's best chances were missed rather than stopped by the 'keeper, but Robles made one huge, crucial stop in the first half when going a goal down might well have been the hammer blow to his team's fragile confidence.

Aaron Long - 6

Another solid showing at left-back for a player who started his career as a midfielder and only learned to play center-back last season. Kemar Lawrence's arrival in the second half was a reminder that Long is not, in fact, an elite LB - but he's a passable stand-in, which is a compliment for a man who wasn't even on the depth chart for the left-back position at the start of the season.

Aurelien Collin - 7

Two facts: the last time RBNY visited the Union, Collin didn't play and CJ Sapong scored a hat-trick; this time around, Collin played and Sapong did not score at all. Are these facts connected? I cannot tell you they are.

Damien Perrinelle - 7.5

The more active of the two CBs on the day, and the higher-rated by more sophisticated player-evaluation systems than the one used by this observer. But this was one of Perrinelle's better games by the low standard he's set for this season - he didn't concede a penalty - and the high standard he's set with the broader span of his tenure at RBNY.

Amir Murillo - 8

If BWP had brought his finishing shoes, or was a true target forward (like, say, Blas Perez - the man Murillo set up for a goal in his most recent appearance for Panama), the Red Bulls might not have been sweating the result of this game for as long as they did.

Murillo was generally solid at the back and, more pertinently for the Red Bulls' system, he was a consistent threat in the final third. His crossing is better than his teammates make it look, and he likes the challenge of beating his man with the ball at his feet. A tall, quick, tricksy full-back is a handful in any league; Murillo has the tools to be that handful.

Tyler Adams - 7

My favorite Adams moment came late in the game: two Red Bulls were shunted off the ball en route to the Union's penalty area - no foul called for either; Adams corralled possession - a Philadelphia player slipped just trying to adjust to the midfielder's movement from 10 yards away. He is 18 and he already has the poise and ability to make opponents worry more about what his feet are going to do than their own.

Felipe - 6

Perhaps an uncharitable rating for a player who was the focus of the rash tackle that turned the game RBNY's way. Derrick Jones lunged in for a 50/50 ball, and made a mess of the timing of the challenge.

Felipe draws a lot of fouls, but this seemed a straightforwardly rash tackle. Jones got to the ball first, but that is largely irrelevant: he came in over the top of the ball and the majority of his momentum was going to drive his studs into Felipe's leg - but for the fact the Brazilian has spent his career emphatically avoiding much more subtle touches.

If anything, it's good fortune Felipe was involved in that play: he's the only Red Bull who could be relied to get out of the way in time to avoid injury. There seemed to be no great malice or menace in Jones' intent, but he made a mistake and didn't leave the referee much choice - especially for a decision that had to be made in real time.

Felipe's other great contribution to the game was swapping positions with Sacha Kljestan during the first half. It was a move that seemed to improve the Red Bulls use and retention of the ball, but it didn't make the team more incisive or effective in the final third.

Daniel Royer - 5

Not his most effective game for RBNY, perhaps by design - seemed to defer slightly to Muly when one or the other winger had to go forward to support BWP.

Sacha Kljestan - 6

Spent most of the game playing deep, alongside - or even behind - Tyler Adams, and played the role pretty well. Kljestan was regarded as a deep-lying midfielder when he landed at RBNY, so no great surprise that he knows what to do in that position.

Credit for doing a good job with the positional switch, but it's also notable that part of the reason he looked good was because he has not looked great in his more familiar role higher up the field.

Alex Muyl - 6

It was a surprise when he was subbed out ahead of Royer because he seemed to be having a better game than his fellow winger - though once again it was a game marked by near-misses rather than chances taken.

Bradley Wright Phillips - 8

For 87 minutes it appeared BWP had done something to offend the ball. Whenever he got near it in front of goal, it bounced past him or refused to comply with his request for it to sneak past 'keeper Andre Blake and into the net. The stories about his worrying lack of form were probably already written by the time he scored the first goal, and they had scarcely been deleted when he scored the second in stoppage time.

Ultimately, the box score shows a tidy performance: four shots, three on target, two in the net. That is some distance from the whole story, but it also is the whole story: even when he's struggling - and BWP struggled for a lot of this game - he's doing well. The perception BWP misses a lot of chances is in part down to the fact he gets himself into very good positions so frequently that he seems more likely to score than not on most occasions.

As his shooting stats for this game attest, he doesn't miss nearly as often or egregiously as is often suggested.


Kemar Lawrence - 8

Earlier this week, it was announced illness had forced Lawrence to miss training - and it is that illness that is assumed to have been the reason he wasn't in the starting lineup. It was probably merely desperation that forced him into the game at half-time: Aaron Long had reportedly turned his ankle, and even a half-fit Lawrence was still the best option to step in to the back line from the bench.

He provided a lot of what RBNY had been missing in the first half: a reliable attacking threat on the overlap from the left side. No great surprise his incisive pass set up BWP's opening goal.

Sal Zizzo - 7

Count Once A Metro among those who groaned when Marsch withdrew Alex Muyl in the 74th minute for...Zizzo. Against 10 men on a hot day with a goal required for a shot at three points, Jesse Marsch looked at his bench and decided against either of the two out-and-out attacking players at his disposal - Gonzalo Veron and Derrick Etienne - and opted for the man he has spent the last two seasons converting into a right-back.

But Zizzo proved to be exactly the right man for the job of setting up the second goal.

Gonzalo Veron - 9

What was the point of subbing in Veron in the 84th minute? Philadelphia was well focused on defending its way to at least a draw, and Veron wasn't going to get nearly enough time to make an impact on the game. All the Union had to to do was hold its shape and...



Veron delivered the best Sacha Kljestan impression we've seen this season - by anyone, including Sacha Kljestan. And he was doing it while technically playing Daniel Royer's position. He provided the secondary assist on both goals: a trademark Kljestan contribution. And he did in eight minutes: from entering the game in the 84th, to nudging the ball wide to Kemar Lawrence in the 87th, to cutting inside and switching play over to Sal Zizzo on the right in the 92nd.

Coach: Jesse Marsch - 9

Everything worked. Switching Felipe and Kljestan worked. Starting Aaron Long at left-back until subbing in Kemar Lawrence worked better. Sal Zizzo set up a goal. Gonzalo Veron was an 84th-minute game-changer.

He won't have many games that respond as well to his tactical input as this one, and this one should be treasured as something close to perfect for a head coach often accused of lacking a Plan B. He started this match with his Plan B defense, switched to his Plan C midfield half-way through the first half, and won the game with a Hail Mary substitution.

Well done, Jesse.

Have at it in the comments.