Modesty is the Best Policy (New York Red Bulls-Los Angeles FC Recap)

Robert Cole/ALOST

 – by Tyler L. Dudley
A Lot of Sports Talk contributing reporter

HARRISON, NJ –-With 100 goals in Major League Soccer under his belt, New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips was presented a tailor-made opportunity to start another century of goals during the second half on Sunday, all alone on goal with just the keeper to beat. Not only did Wright-Phillips hold off on scoring No. 101, he ended up passing on scoring the game-winning goal…

…to make, and perfectly execute, the game-winning assist.

Fellow Red Bulls forward Daniel Royer scored two goals, including the game-winning goal on a tap-in off of Wright-Phillips’ unselfish feed in the second half in the 80th minute, to lead New York a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles FC at Red Bull Arena.

Starting with a beautifully-lobbed clearing pass over the LAFC backline from Red Bulls midfielder Marc Rzatkowski, Wright-Phillips filled the space in the box and, with goal 101 in sight, passed it to Royer who lobbed it in the back of the net. For Wright-Phillips, his decision that he made in the box was not a difficult one to make.

“He’s in a better position for me,” Wright-Phillips said. “I think he has a better chance to score. I think it’s the obvious decision.”

Royer’s eighth goal of the season gave the men in red the lead for good, enough to add another three points on the season to move within one point of Atlanta for first place in the Eastern Conference.

“It was a great team performance today,” Royer said. “Our mentality, our team spirit, that was really important.”

In a showdown of league powerhouses, Royer was man of the match, scoring in the 39th minute to give New York a 1-0 lead before slotting home the game winner in the second half. However, the win would not have been secured without the help of midfielder Tyler Adams, who led the midfield in controlling the game for the Red Bulls and withstanding the pressure of Los Angeles’s attacking force.

“Great job from the team for limiting their dynamic attackers in the middle,” head coach Armas said. “It’s not really a one-man job. With time and space good players can hurt you in the end. Our guys did a good job not fouling, running at the ball and taking it away.”

The Red Bulls were looking to bounce back from a rare loss at home last week against Columbus Crew SC. In that game, New York’s starting XI did not include Wright-Phillips nor midfield playmaker Kaku, and the Red Bulls found themselves down 3-0 in the first 30 minutes before losing 3-2. It was a different game altogether today, with the Red Bulls taking the lead in the 39th minute from Royer’s first goal. Midfielder Michael Murillo took a long shot from out wide that was saved by Los Angeles FC goalkeeper Tyler Miller. However, Miller could only push Murillo’s shot into the path of Royer, who fortunately was able to swing his right foot through the ball while down on the floor and found the back of the net with his shot.

“[LAFC] have a lot of quality on their team,” Royer said. “At the end of the day I think we just wanted it more.”

Los Angeles FC, with Mexican national forward Carlos Vela leading the way, were able to find chances. Vela was able to help maintain the midfield as he controlled the ball and opened up space down the flanks. In the 53rd minute, Los Angeles forward Diego Rossi scored the equalizer in the 53rd minute after Vela sent a lovely through-ball to Rossi down the middle of the field, where Rossi was able to latch on and send it to the back of the net past Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.

“He’s [Carlos Vela] is a world class player,” Armas said. “These guys are difficult. They stay in blind spots. They find spaces.”

Rossi’s shot was one of just three that were on target for Los Angeles FC during the 90 minutes.

“This is a good group. The last couple of games we haven’t gotten the results that we wanted,” Rossi said. “But I have good company with the club. This [Red Bulls] team is a hard team. We know we have to leave here with confidence.”

Rossi’s goal seemed to turn the game around, but the Red Bulls were desperate to get back in the win column after last week’s defeat at home. It’s no secret that Wright-Phillips has been the star player for the Red Bulls, and having just scored his 100thcareer goal a couple of weeks back in Washington against DC United, he decided to play the role of playmaker in the 80th minute when setting up Royer’s easy finish.

“Not every striker passes that ball, he’s [Wright-Phillips] is just incredible,” Royer said.

The win puts the Red Bulls in second place in the Eastern Conference, above NYCFC and only four points behind Atlanta United. While three points help the Red Bulls in their chase for another Supporters’ Shield, the game against LAFC was a lot more than just a fight for points and playoff positioning.

Following the game, fans and Red Bulls players alike stayed for a celebration of Wright-Phillips’ 100 goals in Major League Soccer. Messages from family, friends, and fans were shown on the videoboard for Wright-Phillips to enjoy. Despite the postgame being all about him, he stayed true to his humility.

“I definitely didn’t think I’d get 100 goals,” Wright-Phillips said. “Each year I’ve tried to just become a leader.”

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