By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench
Saturday, March 16: 4-1 Win
Ah, Spring. When young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of MLS. At least, we hope so. It was still rather chilly, but a bright sunny afternoon welcomed fans old and new to Red Bull Arena. The home match against the San Jose Earthquakes happens every other year, and new Quakes coach Matias Almeyda is looking to bring his team into the playoff conversation.
You know I’m a dreamer: This is already Matchday 3. The season is well on its way, with all its narratives being formed and tweaked. The Red Bulls have lived and learned with two home games in their latest attempt at the CONCACAF Champions League. But the league home opener is a special moment. A halftime ceremony celebrated the 2018 Supporter’s Shield, as well as the team’s previous two, which are all immortalized on the building itself. Recently retired former Red Bull Mike Grella was invited to hold up the 2015 Shield at the ceremony. Confetti-filled posters of the players from Decision Day 2018 were distributed to fans following the match.
Sometimes nothing keeps me together: The game itself didn’t look so good at the start. The Red Bulls were unsettled throughout the first half. The high press Red Bull thrives on was keeping them on the attack, but no one could find the back of the net. At the same time, the Earthquakes looked threatening after every turnover. Just five minutes into the match, Christian Espinoza sent a low shot past Luis Robles. Then, around the thirty-minute mark, a rough challenge sent midfielder Florian Valot to ground. With a scream. And anyone who saw and heard knew. The player who lost most of last season to a tear in his left ACL confirmed a few days after the game that he tore his right ACL. He bounced back once, and fans are confident he can do it again.
I’m on my way: In the 34th minute, homegrown Alex Muyl entered the pitch for Valot. While he had two off-target shots leading up to the halftime whistle, it was clear he was knocking on the door. But that happens a lot, and not just to Muyl. The entire first half was rife with missed opportunities. Kyle Duncan, who had done great work in the back line until the game against San Jose, scrambled for the first half but finally found his bearings in the second. It was time for RBNY to show what they were made of.
Just set me free: If you’re reading this, and you didn’t come to the game because some other commitment was going to have you missing the first half, let me tell you right now: the second half alone was worth the price of admission. Not one, but two goals from Alex Muyl, the first goal of the season for striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, and the final dagger from Daniel Royer.
Take me to your heart: Almost as soon as Wright-Phillips scored, he was substituted. In his place came Mathias Jorgensen, the eighteen-year-old Danish international who was the marquee signing of the Red Bulls’ off-season. And while he didn’t score a hat-trick right out of the gate, coach Chris Armas was happy with what he saw: “He almost scored. It’s right there for him.”
Whether he starts the next match, replaces Wright-Phillips earlier, or plays alongside him remains to be seen. But like many of the players on the roster, it’s about more than what fans see on gameday. “But if you got to know him a little bit the way we do, what a humble, hard-working team guy, and he fought hard, even in a few minutes,” Armas said. This is clearly the identity of the RBNY player, which belies the “villains of MLS” perception that other teams would like to foist upon them.
Enjoying back-to-back home games, the Red Bulls face former teammate Sacha Kljestan and Orlando City SC on Saturday.
Featured image: Sylvana Budeshelm
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