Both played key roles in the New York Red Bulls getting back in the win column with a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Sunday afternoon, each making an impact with more than their typical high work rates from their outside midfield spots.
Alexander delivered the assist on the game-winning goal in the 60th minute with a quality through ball to Fabián Espíndola and Steele provided a gorgeous insurance strike two minutes before the final whistle.
Their performances were impressive and also served as reminders to head coach Mike Petke of how solid the duo has been this season.
“If you would have told me when we first got them that they would be bona fide starters for us at this point in the season, I probably would’ve said, ‘Probably not,’” Petke said in his postgame press conference. “Their work tonight in a league like this, when they’re outworking and outhustling and [showing] their quality is very key. They epitomize that.”
Steele was one of the main offensive catalysts for New York in the game, proving a handful for Dynamo right back Kofi Sarkodie while also contributing on the defensive side. Steele also played with stitches in his chin after having four to five inserted at halftime due to a collision with Sarkodie late in the first half that left the Northern Irishman bloodied.
Alexander also showed good things offensively, more so than he had for much, if not, all of the season. He was more confident going forward and took risks with the ball, something that led to Espíndola's winner at the hour mark.
“My forward final passes have been all right the past couple games, but I’ve been encouraged by the players to just try to play forward a little more often,” Alexander told MLSsoccer.com before downplaying the significance of his pass. “It was just the result of a good run and he had a great finish.”
Thierry Henry wasn't so modest about Alexander’s contributions, saying the 25-year-old midfielder was the main reason why the Red Bulls were able to pick up the victory that gave them sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference.
“The key today was Eric Alexander,” said Henry. “He turned, I love when he does that, every time he had the ball. That is the key in soccer. If you play the ball back or you play the ball sideways, you’re not going to go anywhere.
"But today, every time he got the ball, he tried to turn and go forward. For me, that was the key and he unlocked the game with his passing. He was the key because every single time he wanted to turn and play with us forwards. That’s always a plus.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.