HARRISON, N.J. – New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made a joke to the media following the New York Red Bulls’ game with D.C. United on Sunday, saying that a game in which Jan Gunnar Solli and Brandon Barklage score is one that they have to win.
Those type of verbal jabs, although playful, have been wearing thin on Solli, who has heard more than enough of them in recent weeks from many of his Red Bulls teammates.
So naturally Solli did something about it by scoring the winner in the Red Bulls’ 3-2 triumph on Sunday, getting his first MLS tally on a rebound in the second half that teasingly smacked off the post before crossing the goal line.
“I played 43 games without scoring a goal,” Solli told reporters with a smile after the match. “You want to bury that when people are kind of talking about it, ‘Oh you’re the only one. Heath [Pearce] has come in and scored, Markus [Holgersson] scored, now Barklage scored two.’ I was like, ‘Come on, this is my chance. I’m not going to walk out of here without having a goal.’”
WATCH: Solli nets first MLS goal
Solli added that winning is more important to him than any goal scored, but he did say that his performance may have benefitted from Thierry Henry pulling him over to have a talk prior to kickoff.
“It fires you up,” Solli said of the speech. “Then I got my first goal, so I give a little credit to him.”
Solli’s powerful finish in the 55th minute gave the Red Bulls a 3-1 lead and came after he had his initial shot blocked by United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. It was the latest example of the Red Bulls’ ability to win thanks to role players stepping up when called upon.
“You have to play as a team and I think we did that tonight after conceding a goal 40 seconds in,” said Henry, who came in as a second-half substitute. “It’s refreshing. That’s the type of thing I need as an old man.”
Jokes like that may continue in the Red Bulls camp, but Solli won’t be the butt of them. Not anymore.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.