HARRISON, N.J. – A beautiful second half goal as well as an assist on the equalizer in the first half might have grabbed the headlines, but there was much more to Sean Davis’ night then those statistics. The New York Red Bulls midfielder also put in a thankless, tireless match in Saturday night’s 3-1 win over Orlando City.
In other words, it was the kind of gritty performance Davis puts in regularly, even if he is not making the highlight reel for his scoring exploits.
His 80th minute goal was a beautiful shot from 22 yards out where Davis tucked his curling effort just inside the far post. He took a throw in from left back Kemar Lawrence, split two defenders on the dribble and then touched his effort past a helpless Joe Bendik in Orlando’s goal.
The goal looked eerily like the shots Davis works on after training on most days with assistant coach Chris Armas. Davis stays after practice voluntarily, often working with Armas on an exercise where he takes a touch, moves beyond a dummy and then has to place his shot far post.
Just like he did against Orlando.
“We've been talking about throw-ins the whole year, you know, both offensively and defensively and how dangerous they can be on both sides. For me, I just saw some space around me, Kemar had a good throw-in to me,” Davis said following the match.
“I was able to turn, get out of some pressure, and then Jesse stressed at half time to shoot. So, that went through my mind and I just tried to bend it outside of the post, like I practice all the time with Chris Armas.”
It was the cherry on top of a strong performance from Davis and his Red Bulls teammates, who went down in the 18th minute to a Carlos Rivas goal but then quickly began to dominate the match.
But beyond the second half goal and his secondary assist on the game’s equalizer in the first half, Davis’ night can’t be measured by just the boxscore.
Playing deep in the midfield of the Red Bulls proclaimed 3-6-1 formation, he lined up next to Felipe and is expected the cover ground and fight for balls. The third-year midfielder did just that against a talented Orlando City team that wanted to play quickly and cut through the lines of the Red Bulls counter-press.
His work in tracking back and clogging up the passing channels helped frustrated Orlando in the final third.
Consistently, Davis as well as fellow midfielders Alex Muyl and Felipe will put up the highest mileage numbers in a match of anyone on the field. It is a thankless job but one that doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates or head coach Jesse Marsch.
“Outstanding. Outstanding. Outstanding. Sean has covered ground, pressed well, counter-pressed well, battled in the midfield, slowed down for us, made great attacking plays, been dangerous around the goal. Complete performances. Complete performances,” Marsch said.
“So you know, we all have seen over the last three years what a good player Sean is and it's just been trying to unlock him a little bit and then tactically trying to think about how to use him appropriately.
“I think of all the – I mean, the two people that this formation I think has rewarded the most are Danny Royer and Sean Davis and they have obviously been incredibly important players for us in the last couple months here. Really happy for Sean. He's showing all the great qualities we know he has, and I think he's establishing himself at a really high level now.”
The result got the Red Bulls back on the right track following last Sunday’s difficult match at New York City FC, a 3-2 loss that saw their rivals comprehensively close out the match. After a slow start to the year, the Red Bulls now sit alone in fourth place and have again shown strong form in the summer to rise up the standings of a tough Eastern Conference.
The three points on Saturday night gives the Red Bulls five wins in their last six matches.
“Yeah I think it's a really important time of the season. The East is extremely competitive this year,” Davis said. “You need every point you can get and we knew that going into this game that three points would be huge, you know, going against Orlando who is a very good side and fighting for the playoffs. Our mindset this week was to take it one game at a time and tonight was our first game.”