HARRISON, N.J. – Lloyd Sam needed it just as much as the New York Red Bulls did – maybe even more so.
Inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in a home game this season, Sam enjoyed one of his finest performances in a New York Red Bulls jersey in the club’s 2-1 victory over D.C. United on Saturday. His goalscoring outing helped inject some much-needed life into an inconsistent New York offense that had gone cold in recent weeks, and also served as a big confidence boost for Sam, who has been used sparingly this season.
“I’m happy. I don’t know how many crosses I put in the box, but I feel like I’ve done my job putting the balls in and one of them ended up being a goal, so that makes me even happier,” said Sam. “I’ve not had that many games, so it’s nice to get in there, first start at home and get a goal.
“I was saying good things would happen when you start me at home, so I had to kind of back up my talk.”
The 28-year-old Englishman did just that, and then some. Aside from providing width to the attack by sending in a healthy dosage of crosses from the right flank, Sam looked confident on the ball.
He beat United defenders on the dribble on a number of occasions and even put in the necessary defensive work late in the match after the Red Bulls had been reduced to 10 men, much to the delight of head coach Mike Petke, who was seen nodding his head in approval after watching Sam slide to clear a late pass.
Petke was not the only one who came away impressed with the way Sam performed in his first start since late June.
“Sam was amazing,” said midfielder Tim Cahill, who scored the game winner on a trademark header. “I said to him tonight, ‘You’re going to be on fire tonight. This is your night. You’re going to shine,’ and he did, he didn’t let anyone down. When you give him his chance he produces, and he produced again tonight.”
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In addition to producing a bevy of crosses, Sam also had the opening goal in the eighth minute. After Cahill appeared to have been clipped in the penalty area, Sam collected the ball just outside the 18-yard-box, faked a cross with his left foot and then hit a ball with his right that floated over United goalkeeper Bill Hamid and banged off the far post before crossing the goal line.
The finish was quality, but not entirely intentional.
“It was a cross-shot,” joked Sam when asked if he intended to cross or shoot the ball, “and good things happen from them sort of balls, so I’ll take the goal.”
And the Red Bulls will take more performances like that from Sam.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.