Lloyd Sam was given pretty simple instructions by New York Red Bulls assistant coach Robin Fraser before stepping on the field against Sporting Kansas City: Go out and attack.
Inspired by those words, Sam executed the gameplan to a tee and then some.
Sam proved the very definition of an impact sub on Saturday night, assisting on a go-ahead goal and scoring the winner in the New York Red Bulls’ surprise 3-2 triumph over Sporting KC. The 28-year-old midfielder provided some much-needed speed on the flanks for a New York team that was intent on counterattacking, and he earned Man of the Match honors for his ability to tilt the game in the Red Bulls’ favor.
“I was told to come on and be positive straight away and if I can beat the first man, it will open up a lot for us,” said Sam, who also set up a golden opportunity late that Peguy Luyindula missed. “Just those words meant a lot to me. I think [Fraser] said it to me, and when you get positive words to go on and just attack, it helps a lot. That probably helps me.”
If that’s the case, the Eastern Conference-leading Red Bulls might want to consider doing more of that with Sam in the future. Three minutes after entering the game at the hour-mark, Sam hit Fabian Espindola with a pass that saw the Argentine race in on goal before rifling it past Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Six minutes after that, Sam scored a goal of his own on a beautiful counterattack that only involved two other players, Jonny Steele and New York 'keeper Luis Robles.
“I wanted the ball from Luis, my initial run was to get it from Luis,” said Sam on the play that decided the game, one that came after Sporting KC was caught with too many numbers forward. “It went the other way and I just found myself ahead of all their players and I was hoping Jonny saw me and he played a great ball across.
“I thought about hitting it first time, which would’ve been a difficult finish, and then I just thought if I get my first touch right here, inside the player, then it would set up nicely for me and then just hit it near post.”
The one blip on Sam’s performance was that he sustained his latest injury while at the club before the match ended, resulting in head coach Mike Petke having to use his final substitution on replacing the Englishman. The Red Bulls announced after the game that Sam had suffered a knock to his left quadriceps, one that Sam does not believe to be too serious.
“A little tweak,” said Sam. “It’s been hard, my season has been very stop-start and these things can happen, but it’s not a big problem. It’s a minor problem. I’ll come back strong again and just in a few days. It shouldn’t be too bad.”
Injury aside, Sam’s performance was arguably his best of the season. He impressed not only Red Bulls fans with his ability to inject energy into the club, but also his teammates and head coach.
“I just thought that Lloyd would bring some energy and ability to counter and that’s exactly what you saw, it’s exactly what he did,” said Petke. “It’s unfortunate that he goes in and then gets an injury and then we have to make another sub [but] I was happy with Lloyd’s performance today.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.