Raise your hand if you had Long Island’s own Mike Grella bagging the game winner for the New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew on Saturday. Now lower your hands immediately, you liars.
New York head coach Jesse Marsch was made to look like the smartest man in the room on Saturday when he swapped a struggling Sal Zizzo for the previously mentioned Grella in the 66th minute. Grella had been on the pitch for but a minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips, who had a Man of the Match performance in the winning effort, forced a turnover as Grella sprinted toward the Columbus goal. The New York native then hit a clever first-time chip that left Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark hung out to dry, a tally that would make the likes of David Villa and Federico Higuain take notice.
Marsch is going to be unpopular among a sect of Red Bulls supporters because of how the team’s front office treated club legend and former coach Mike Petke. That’s absolutely fair, but all would do well to remember that Marsch was also a victim in that debacle in that he did not ask for the controversy leading into his return to the MLS coaching ranks. Under Mr. Marsch, the Red Bulls are currently the undisputed kings of pro soccer in the New York region as of March 28, and New York are sitting in first place.
Not too shabby.
Red Bulls beat Columbus 2-1: MOTM
There will hopefully soon come a time when those who work for the Major League Soccer website will hail Wright-Phillips as one of the best overall attacking players in the league. BWP became a handful for the Columbus defense following the halftime break, and it was Wright-Phillips who played a perfect pass into the Columbus box for Lloyd Sam that resulted in Sam being taken down. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, and Wright-Phillips made no mistake in depositing the ball into the left corner of the net.
Outside of creating both of his team’s goals, Wright-Phillips was a ten out of ten in his holdup play, and he helped create scoring opportunities for teammates on multiple occasions. The front man who was downright disrespected in MLS Most Valuable Player voting last fall could be in for another special season if he is truly finding his form so early in the year.
Red Bulls beat Columbus 2-1: Better option
It is a bit unfair to be critical of Red Bulls left back Anthony Wallace, who had been an official member of the club’s squad for about a hiccup before he was named in Marsch’s starting lineup on Saturday evening. With that said, Wallace looked visibly overwhelmed by the scenario, and there were times when his hesitations while he had possession put New York in scary situations. It was, to put it nicely, a rough debut.
Injuries along with international call-ups impact squads. That is just the way that it goes in MLS. One nevertheless cannot help but think about Connor Lade, who is seemingly out of favor under a second coach and who cannot get a look on league weekends. Living legend Thierry Henry once hailed Lade for what he could offer the Red Bulls, and yet the New Jersey native and product of St. John’s soccer isn’t seeing the pitch. Weird.
Red Bulls beat Columbus 2-1: Worry
Luis Robles is the best and the most underrated goalkeeper in MLS, and the Red Bulls should be thankful on a daily basis that he wears the club’s colors due to the fact that his back line is not one that would boost the confidence of any ‘keeper. Damien Perrinelle was the best New York defender on the evening, but he easily could have been sent off 17 minutes into play when he pulled Higuain down to the ground after he gave the ball away in his own third. Matt Miazga unintentionally assisted on the Columbus goal scored by Tony Tchani when Miazga tapped the ball right into the path of the former Red Bulls player on a set piece play.
This defense is going to leave fans biting their nails on a weekly basis. That’s just the lay of the land this season, and it is why fans watching held their breaths when Robles collided with the left goalpost in stoppage time. Robles is going to be sore tomorrow morning, but he arose to his feet a few minutes after his clash with the post and he finished the match. Phew.
Red Bulls beat Columbus 2-1: Dumb
I saw on the always reliable Twitter machine that the Columbus home announcers did not think that Higuain deserved to be sent off seven minutes from time. They were wrong. Higuain was called for a foul while making a trek down the left flank, and he protested that decision by picking the ball up and throwing it to the ground. That will lead to a yellow card ten times out of ten, and that yellow turns red when the player involved has already been cautioned as Higuain had been during the first half of play. It was a silly move to make by the veteran who should know better, and the referee made the right call in giving Higuain his marching orders.
Red Bulls beat Columbus 2-1: First
A Red Bulls team that is supposed to struggle qualifying for the postseason has won two of three games, it earned a draw on the road against Sporting Kansas City, it earned a victory over rivals DC United, and it has notched a win at a very good Crew side. New York will now be forced to wait an extra week before the team once again plays against DC because MLS chose to gift Montreal Impact some time off to prepare for CONCACAF Champions League.
Enjoy your time off, everybody.