The Red Bulls defeated the Houston Dynamo, 3-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday afternoon to move back into first place of the overall league standings, and they did so despite fielding a starting lineup that was heavily altered due to injury.
The right calf knock that prevented David Carney from traveling with the rest of the New York squad threw a wrench into head coach Mike Petke’s plans. It forced Petke to thrust Brandon Barklage into an unfamiliar left back role, push Markus Holgersson out on the ride side of defense and deploy Ibrahim Sekagya in the Swede’s place at center back. Also without the injured Fabian Espindola, Petke used forward Peguy Luyindula in a central midfield role while pushing Tim Cahill up the field and chose to start Eric Alexander over Lloyd Sam on the right flank.
The result of that slew of personnel changes? A win over the Dynamo that leaves the Red Bulls three points away from lifting their first piece of hardware.
“This is the deepest team I’ve ever been on in my career,” said midfielder Dax McCarty, an eight-year veteran of MLS. “I think the results speak for themselves, [especially] when you have four or five new guys in the lineup. They stepped up and played great.”
Two of the players who did so were Sekagya and Bradley Wright-Phillips, the last two acquisitions for the Red Bulls in the summer transfer window. Sekagya held firm defensively despite the Dynamo sending in waves of attacks and also contributed with a headed insurance goal that marked his first in a New York uniform. Wright-Phillips, meanwhile, came off the bench to provide some energy and an opportunistic third tally for his first Red Bulls goal
They were not the only ones, however. Luyindula fared well in a very rare cameo in the center of the park, Barklage looked like he had played left back all season, and Sam came off the bench and nearly helped create a fourth goal that Wright-Phillips headed off the crossbar.
“The front office did a good job in the beginning of the season making sure we got the right players,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “It doesn’t matter who we plug in, we have the quality and depth to make sure that we continue to get a result. We’ve seen that time in and time out this season. It definitely is a huge compliment to the guys that put the team together and then of course Mike preparing us, but also the guys that go out there understanding that we need to get a result and needing to play according to the way we’re supposed to.
“When we do that, the results speak for themselves.”