Dante Vanzeir delivers: "Striker’s instinct" powers New York Red Bulls


So that’s why the New York Red Bulls signed Dante Vanzeir this offseason.

The Belgian international, who could become the club’s record incoming transfer if all incentives hit, provided the decisive moment in Saturday’s 2-1 comeback win over the visiting Columbus Crew.

Eleven minutes after subbing on at Red Bull Arena, the 24-year-old striker found himself open as John Tolkin’s cross floated towards the back post. Vanzeir, gathering himself, side-footed a mid-air volley past goalkeeper Eloy Room for an 86th-minute winner that earned the Red Bulls’ first victory of 2023.

“It's the moment we were all waiting for, especially for myself,” said Vanzeir. “That's a great start. First victory at home, first goal, that's a good moment to keep going.”

Vanzeir, in early February, arrived from Belgian top-flight side Union SG for a reported $5.3 million. He tallied 48 goals and 21 assists in 92 matches for his old club, creating big expectations as New York recalibrated their striker corps for the 2023 campaign.

Vanzeir’s yet to start for the Red Bulls, instead playing just 54 minutes off the bench (across three games) as he gets settled in MLS. But by supplying the Red Bulls’ biggest moment yet of the new season, head coach Gerhard Struber may have to get Vanzeir in the starting lineup.

“This goal is going to be really important for him,” said DP midfielder Luquinhas, who scored a 58th-minute equalizer and is in his second season after joining from Polish side Legia Warsaw.

“When I arrived here, I wanted to start scoring goals and these make myself more confident, so it's going to give confidence to Dante as well. And not just for Dante but for the whole group.”

Tolkin, New York’s homegrown left back who’s on the US men's national team bubble, was direct in praising New York’s marquee signing.

“He's got that striker’s instinct and he was lurking back there,” Tolkin said. “He got in the right spot and good finish.”

Looking forward, Struber said it’s about the Red Bulls coming “in touch with him and realize more and more in which direction he wants the ball, in which direction he can help the group.”

If Saturday’s highlight-reel moment is any indication, that understanding is primed to keep on growing.

“I was just celebrating and enjoying the moment,” Vanzeir said. “We needed this as a team.”