– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
HARRISON, NJ — Already knowing that they were going to go into one the biggest regular-season games in Major League Soccer history without its best goal-scorer, the New York Red Bulls then were dealt some double jeopardy when realizing just before kick that their influential defensive midfield destroyer would also have to miss the match.
All of that just made what turned out to be a season-defining win for the Red Bulls that much sweeter.
A dominant display for New York was capped off by a goal in each half as the Red Bulls defeated league-leading Atlanta United 2-0 on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, cutting Atlanta’s lead atop the MLS standings to just one point above New York in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
Having to play the full 90 minutes without leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was suspended due to yellow card accumulation, as well as midfielder Tyler Adams, a late scratch due to back spasms, the Red Bulls still managed to carry the play throughout the game, not giving Atlanta’s lethal attack any chance to stretch its legs as they pinned the Five Stripes in their own half of the field for most of the game.
“The physical output was always going to be a big demand against a team as good as they are, with attackers as good as they are,” said New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas. “Both in transition and with challenging the back line, we were able to put pressure on their backs and up the field to minimize the amount of times we got caught the other way. But I look at it and we talked about the back line, and over the years to try to find guys that are built for games like this, built for teams like that.”
Both center backs for the Red Bulls, Aaron Long and Tim Parker, played influential roles in the two goals scored along with stellar play in the back. Late in the first half, a Sean Davis corner kick was first headed by midfielder Marc Rzatkowski before making its way toward Long in the box, whose header toward goal was handled by Atlanta defender Chris McCann.
Daniel Royer, the Red Bulls’ second-leading scorer, blasted home the penalty high to the left past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 39th minute for a 1-0 lead.
New York doubled its lead in the 74th minute when midfielder Alex Muyl, Adams’ replacement in the midfield, latched on to a wonderful through ball by Rzatkowski in the box before crossing to Parker, who tapped home to give New York a 2-0 lead in the 74th minute.
Parker had a goal off of a set piece in the first half disallowed when he strayed just offside before a headed pass by Long went to Parker on Atlanta’s far post.
Today marked only the second time in MLS history that two teams more than 10 games above .500 met in the regular season, with the last occurrence of that happening in 1998.