Three observations from the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win over D.C. United Saturday.
1. Muyl Breaks Through
One of the biggest reasons the Red Bulls decided to part ways with Dax McCarty in the offseason was the fact that the team had young depth in the central midfield. Players such as Alex Muyl and Sean Davis were expected to fill the shoes of the former captain and provide energetic performances in the middle of the pitch.
Saturday could be the start of that. Muyl turned the game with a powerful header in the 46th minute past D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid and jumpstarted the Red Bulls’ attacking play. The 21-year-old also completed 31 passes and won eight aerial duels.
“I know it’s only a matter of time, and sometimes with young attacking players they just need to get more into a comfort zone and more confident and then the final plays will start to come,” coach head coach Jesse Marsch said in his post-game comments. “Alex, I’d definitely put in that category, so I expect him to be much more productive from a goal scoring and assist perspective this year.”
2. Defense Solidity
There have been games early on this season where a critical defense error cost the Red Bulls points. That didn’t happen Saturday.
Both Aurelien Collin and Aaron Long were impeccable in the center defense and stayed away from any gaffes that had burned New York in the past. The veteran Collin won eight aerial battles and neutralized the threat posed from D.C. United striker Jose Guillermo Ortiz.
The Red Bulls have shown that they can be a strong defensive team. The question is, can they do it on a consistent basis?
3. Second-Half Surge
The Red Bulls had dominated possession once again in the first half but weren’t able to make it count for anything until Muyl’s headed goal.
The goal changed the outlook of the match, as New York’s attacking play became crisper and more fluid. Their efforts were rewarded in the 62nd minute with Bradley Wright-Phillips‘ clinical strike.
Teams have used the strategy of playing deep defensively against the Red Bulls, allowing them to have possession and nullify their biggest threat – the counterattack. But a set-piece goal like Muyl’s changes everything. It forces the other team to come out of their defensive posture and ends up giving the Red Bulls space to operate with. On BWP’s goal, Sacha Kljestan and Felipe were able to play the ball into space.
It might only be April, but the Red Bulls face a critical match against the East-leading Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena this week. Columbus is coming off a 2-1 win over Toronto, but have struggled away from home.