HARRISON, N.J. – Despite the constant insistence that heads hadn’t dropped over the course of their four-game losing streak, make no mistake: Wednesday night’s 1-0 win against Real Salt Lake represented a massive weight off the shoulders of a frustrated New York Red Bulls side.
In the midst of an 18-day stretch that sees New York take the field six times in both league and US Open Cup competition, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch inserted five new faces into his starting lineup on Wednesday night, including several youngsters and Homegrown Players: 18-year-old Anatole Abang, 22-year-old Sean Davis, 22-year-old Kemar Lawrence and 19-year-old Matt Miazga.
“I don’t know all the statistics, but that’s probably one of the youngest teams that Red Bull has ever put on the field,” Marsch told reporters after the match. “We’ve talked a lot about establishing young guys here, trusting young guys, helping them mature and grow and get better. In an important moment, we put a lot of young guys on the field and they came through for us.
“That was an important moment for our club to [not only] get out of this losing streak, [but also] see a bunch of young guys help us do it.”
It was far from their prettiest performance; anyone in the New York locker room would tell you as much. Regardless, their drought is now officially over, a sense of relief was palpable within the Red Bulls locker room.
“At the end of the day, three points are so huge,” captain Dax McCarty said. “When you lose four games in a row, you start to question yourself; you start to question your ability as a team. I think we never lost too much confidence, but obviously doubt starts to creep in and you never want to doubt yourself; you never want to doubt your team.”
Leading up to the match, the skipper made it a point to demand a tougher approach from his team. No longer content to play an aesthetically pleasing style with no end result to show for their efforts, McCarty challenged his side to play a meaner, more physical brand of soccer.
They were aggressive against Real Salt Lake, starting the match on the front foot and scoring a fourth-minute goal. Mike Grella's strike would stand up against nine-man Real Salt Lake and although it was hardly attractive, a long-awaited return to the win column ahead of Sunday's Rivalry Week match against New York City FC supersedes all other concerns.
“We needed it,” forward Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “Obviously we’re off the back of four losses. I don’t think it was pretty, but we enjoyed it the same way. It’s three points that we needed and we move on to NYCFC.”
Eric Giacometti covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com.