The New York Red Bulls are marching into the 2018 MLS Eastern Conference Final thanks to a 3-0 win at home over Columbus Crew that gave RBNY a 3-1 aggregate win in the semifinal series. Seems like a perfect excuse to resurrect OaM’s Player Ratings.
Luis Robles - 7.5: Columbus only needed one goal to make RBNY’s night very uncomfortable. And there were chances for the Crew to find the net. But Robles was equal to all of them, and the clean sheet was the platform for a win that didn’t feel entirely safe until Royer scored the Red Bulls’ third goal in the 76th minute.
Kemar Lawrence - 7.5: Watch the build-up to RBNY’s second goal - that’s Kemar Lawrence staying high to keep Harrison Afful in two minds about where to be and open up a gap in the back line that Tyler Adams fills on his way to making the pass that sets Royer up to score.
Aaron Long - 8.5: Put in a performance worth of the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, not just in his own half - where he repeatedly tidied up balls hit into space behind Kemar Lawrence as Columbus tried to take advantage of RBNY’s full-back positioning - but also in the final third. Should have kept the credit for the Red Bulls’ opening goal, since Alex Muyl’s contribution was mostly just trying to get out of the way of Long’s shot.
Credit to where it's due: Alex Muyl had the opener (thanks to the smallest of touches)! pic.twitter.com/WDnY0mH03x— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) November 12, 2018
This column would have given Long a 9, but half a point was deducted for the fact he very nearly flattened RBNY’s two-goal hero, Danny Royer, just as his heroic night was getting started.
Tim Parker - 7: Solid, blameless, and reliable as ever.
Amir Murillo - 7: Seemed like one of RBNY’s weaker links in the first leg, but was back to the level we’ve come to expect in the second leg.
Sean Davis - 7.5: A lot is made of the Red Bulls’ set-piece planning, but it is not unusual for soccer teams to rehearse free kick and corner routines. But it is one thing to practice a routine and another to execute it in a game. Davis’ perfectly quarterbacked the play that delivered RBNY’s first goal.
Tyler Adams - 8: Tasked with playing higher up the field than usual in order to cut off Columbus’ distribution at its source, Adams fulfilled his role to near perfection.
Daniel Royer - 9: After sitting out most of October due to injury, Royer returned for RBNY in the first leg of this series and put in a performance that suggested his form suffered more than his fitness during his extended lay-off. But concerns about his form can be set aside now, thanks to a starring role in the Red Bulls’ second-leg turnaround. Royer didn’t singlehandedly propel RBNY to the Eastern Conference Final in this game, it just felt that way because he scored two and set up one of his team’s three goals on the night.
Kaku - 7: At one point this season, Kaku seemed destined to shatter RBNY’s single-season assists record, but his contribution in that regard slowed to a virtual halt - meaning he finished his first season for RBNY with merely the joint-third best regular-season assists total in club history. Somewhat fortuitously credited with an assist in this game (he happened to be the guy who gave Royer the ball so the Austrian could do something quite brilliant), Kaku’s name is at least on the scoresheet again.
Alex Muyl - 8: This column believes he was incorrectly awarded the opening goal of the game, but that should not undermine his overall contribution - which is well illustrated by a box-score that credited him with a goal and an assist, even if one of those stats is a little flattering.
There is, however, nothing flattering about his cartwheel technique.
Bradley Wright-Phillips - 7: Restricted to one shot on the night, and that will count as a quiet performance for some, since the only criticism of BWP that is louder than “all he does is score goals” is that reserved for the days when he doesn’t score goals. But his job is also to keep the ball alive in the final third (as he did in the build-up to RBNY’s second goal) and make runs that drag defenders away from space for other Red Bulls to attack (as he did from an offside position for Danny Royer in the build-up to the third goal). Those who say BWP is not a big game player will look at a playoff scoresheet that doesn’t feature his name and consider themselves validated; they also perhaps misunderstand the value of a big-game player who never believes himself to be bigger than the game.
Derrick Etienne & Marc Rzatkowski - 6: Brought on simultaneously in the 85th minute for Alex Muyl and Danny Royer, to counter a rush of substitutions by Columbus (all three Crew subs came on between the 79th and 84th minutes) with fresh legs. Did their job.
Chris Armas - 9: The circumstances of his ascension to RBNY head coach mean that Armas is - for this season at least - always going to get less credit then he’s perhaps due. After all, he inherited a very good team from his predecessor, Jesse Marsch, and all he really had to do was keep that good team playing the way Marsch was encouraging it to play. And certainly it’s fair to give Marsch some of the credit for the performance of a team he had been leading since 2015. But Armas has passed every significant test that he’s been given to date. More than passed, in fact: picking up a good team in July and guiding it to the highest-ever regular-season points total in MLS history isn’t passing a test, setting a new standard for acing it.
And, as pointed out by Seeing Red’s Mark Fishkin, this particular playoff victory - overturning a first-leg deficit by scoring three goals at home - sits somewhere between “rare” and “unprecedented” on the all-time list of RBNY post-season achievements.
#RBNY has scored 3 goals in a playoff match just 5 times:— Mark Fishkin (@MarkFishkin) November 12, 2018
9.30.98: 5-3 loss at Columbus
9.26.01: 4-1 win v LA Galaxy
11.9.08: 3-0 win at Houston
10.25.17: 4-0 win at Chicago
11.11.18: 3-0 win v Columbus
New York is 0 for 8 in two-legged playoff series when losing the first leg.— Mark Fishkin (@MarkFishkin) November 8, 2018
L v NE (2003)
L v DCU (2004)
L v DCU (2006)
L v NE (2014)
L v CLB (2015)
L v MTL (2016)
L v TOR (2017)
L v CHV - CCL (2018)#RBNY #MLSCupPlayoffs