Alex Muyl has entrenched himself as a fixture in the New York Red Bulls‘ starting lineup.
The rookie midfielder has supplanted Designated Player Gonzalo Veron in the Starting XI for nearly two months now and has shown no signs of letting his place in the lineup slip away.
There has been plenty of debate about the merits on Muyl as a starter compared with Veron. Veron’s value is in his creativity and attacking flair. Muyl is more of a work horse, a hard worker who puts substance over style. While Veron was a “name signing” with an expensive transfer fee and high expectations, Muyl does the little things and does them well.
In the previous two seasons under head coach Jesse Marsch, no Red Bulls player had ever topped 13,000 meters of running in a game. Muyl has already gone over 14,000 twice this season. His lung-busting runs open up space for teammates when the Red Bulls attack and his tracking back has been an asset to the team’s defense.
The Red Bulls are unbeaten since Muyl was inserted into the starting lineup back on July 13 against Orlando City SC and haven’t lost in their last seven matches. They’ve earned 13 points in that stretch, with Muyl’s influence on the team becoming more noticeable. Veron hasn’t made a start in league play since July 3. He played just one minute in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at D.C. United.
“I think right now with the balance of quality and football we think we have on the field, we think Alex balances it out from a workload perspective and from a soccer perspective,” head coach Jesse Marsch said.
“I think Alex has established himself within the group as a guy everybody can really count on. Certainly in games like [Sunday] where it was a brawl on the field, Alex was great, just great on Sunday. Gonzalo, we only used him at the very end. I made the decision, I made the decision that that probably wasn’t the kind of game for him. Same for Omer [Damari]. There will be plenty of other games where he can be useful. That’s the nice problem right now, the quality and a lot of different type of pieces. Now it is up to me to use them in a bunch of different scenarios.”
Muyl is an ideal fit in a high-pressing team like the Red Bulls. Despite being just 20, the New York City native has what Marsch calls the “biggest workload on the team.”
“In a lot of ways, he can do a lot of work to take care of things defensively and with the ball on one side of the field so a lot of guys can find the game a little bit more and it demands a little bit less on them physically. I think Alex has complimented our group really well, really well.”
Sacha Kljestan has been on a tear since Muyl consolidated his spot in the starting lineup. Kljestan has been freed to push more into the final-third, knowing that Muyl’s speed and willingness to make hard runs will cover his forays at goal. Muyl also makes repeated runs and overlaps that create space.
Since Muyl’s run of seven starts, Kljestan has two goals and five assists, benefitting from the quiet but necessary work of his rookie teammate.
“He consistently is the biggest output on the team,” Marsch said.