HARRISON, N.J. – Family concerns trumped the pressures of professional soccer for Jonny Steele in recent weeks, but they haven't kept the Red Bulls midfielder from keeping his competitive fire from burning bright. In fact, they've only stoked the flames.
Steele’s father, Dan, suffered a stroke roughly two weeks ago and Jonny has been dealing with the emotional challenges that come with such a difficult circumstance. But you wouldn't have been able to tell that the younger Steele was burdened on Saturday, as he used the situation as motivation and delivered a Man of the Match-worthy performance in the New York Red Bulls’ 4-1 win against the New England Revolution.
Steele was a clear bright spot for New York at Red Bull Arena, helping set up Dax McCarty’s early opener, assisting on Thierry Henry’s insurance goal and scoring his first for the club near the end of regulation. It was Steele’s best outing in a Red Bulls jersey to date, and one he dedicated to his recovering father.
“Every game I’m going out there to do it for my dad,” Steele told reporters. “I just have to prove and do things for him. He just had a stroke, so I’m just rewarding him for what he has done for me in my career.”
Steele’s showing against the Revolution also strengthened the midfielder's case for a starting spot. Steele was dropped from the lineup by head coach Mike Petke three days prior in a 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, but the 27-year-old impressed the boss with his response in practice and against New England.
“Wednesday not playing him was a bit of a tactical decision,” Petke said in his postgame press conference. “I explained that to him and he was 100 percent on board with that and then he had a phenomenal couple of days in training and I thought this game suited him perfectly.
“This was an opportunity for him to exploit the outside a little bit and get some crosses in and work his [tail] off and he did. I’m proud of him.”
Surely, Dan Steele is as well.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.