VANCOUVER, B.C. - The New York Red Bulls extended their league unbeaten streak to 10 matches with their first-ever win over the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday.
Bradley Wright-Phillips was the difference maker between the two sides, scoring the only goal of the game in the 50th minute for a 1-0 New York win that moves them up to second place in the Eastern Conference standings, one point behind local rivals New York City FC.
For a match that produced 25 shots between the two teams (New York edged Vancouver 13 to 12), it was not the prettiest game in MLS history, with a number of fouls and physical challenges that saw both teams struggle to find any rhythm.
Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch told his side at halftime that they would need to grind out a one-goal victory and he was pleased that that was exactly what they did.
"First half we were a little lucky to get out of that half 0-0 because we turned the ball over in some really bad spots and it gave some good chances to Vancouver," Marsch told reporters after the match. "We were a little bit lucky on the day that they weren't a little bit sharper to finish those plays off.
"But then I thought collectively in the second half, our will and our concentration to make sure that we could find a way to put that game on our terms. At halftime we said that this is going to be a game we're going to have to win ugly. It was just that kind of day."
The difference was Wright-Phillips. As the Whitecaps struggled to get even one of their 12 shots on target, the experienced Englishman showed the importance of having a clinical striker, grabbing his 17th goal of the season to send him into a tie for the MLS Golden Boot lead with NYCFC's David Villa.
"As frustrating as the first half was, and it was physical and it was really difficult for him to find any rhythm in the game, I've continued to try and challenge him to only need that one chance," Marsch said of his striker. "And when that one chance comes that he's so alert and his concentration levels are so high that he's just going to bury it.
"He made that play out of the half, and obviously [scored] a huge goal, but he's shown that ability this year. He's shown that ability to fight through certain moments, to dig out plays. I thought in the second half he was fantastic. He was just finding a way to gain an edge on every play. Always with Brad, it's easy to talk about the goalscoring, but he just does so many little things to make our team good."
After coming out West and leaving with a win, the Red Bulls' remaining six games all come against Eastern Conference opponents, which Marsch feels sets his side up perfectly for an exciting and successful season run-in.
"From a table perspective, [it's] very big, as it keeps us in the race for the first in the East," Marsch said. "It keeps us on a roll, which is 10 straight in the league without a loss, 12 overall. But more importantly, I think it was the fashion in how we did it. The way that we were able to grind out a result.
"For us to just find a way was a really important development in our season and shows a lot of growth."