HARRISON, N.J. – Four goals, a shutout victory, and a passing clinic that would have impressed FC Barcelona. All against one of the top teams in MLS.
This was the New York Red Bulls’ most complete performance of the season.
The Red Bulls enjoyed as thorough a victory as they have had all year with a 4-0 mauling of Eastern Conference leaders the Montreal Impact on Saturday night. The dominant victory not only pushed New York back into second place in the East, but it also lifted the spirits of the club a little more than a week after putting forth a flat outing in a 2-0 away defeat to the Colorado Rapids.
“It was a massive game for us. There was a lot at stake, I suppose, position-wise and points and also how many games we’ve played,” said Tim Cahill, who scored the third goal of the game with a diving header. “But the mentality that we’ve taken from Monday leading into this game was to put right the last game that we played. I felt that we did that on every level, and when you get the goals and you get the defensive performance and the fluidity of the play, for me, I’m very happy.”
New York were flying from the opening whistle against a Montreal side that never really offered any resistance. Eric Alexander opened the scoring eight minutes in with an impressive individual effort and Thierry Henry doubled the lead shortly thereafter.
The two early goals could have left the Red Bulls content to play more defensively, but that was not the case. New York continued to pile on the pressure, creating numerous chances before finding the back of the net twice more in the second half thanks to Cahill's strike and a penalty kick by Peguy Luyindula, his first MLS goal.
“[The players] came out strong, and not only their running with the ball was phenomenal in the first half, but we also emphasized on some key things that Montreal does in the pregame,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke told reporters in hist postgame press conference. “Eric Alexander on the first goal is an exact product of what we pointed out to him, to go after [Jeb] Brovsky one-on-one when the situation calls for it.
“Amongst other things, the passing channels that were open and our back four seeing those channels, Dax [McCarty] not dropping too deep early, really listening to what we went over the in the pregame. I think it’s a combination of them really stepping up the effort and doing what we as a team pinpointed.”
As impressive and comprehensive as the win may have been, it was not lost on the Red Bulls that this was still just one game. Henry made sure to point that out after the match and so did Petke, who knows all too well about the highs and lows that teams experience throughout an MLS season.
“It’s wonderful … but I’ve played in the league for 13 years, it means absolutely nothing,” said Petke. “This is such a streaky league, even the best teams have their moments going up and down. It’s just the way the league is built.”
For now, though, this high will feel just fine.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.