HARRISON, N.J. – Alex Muyl has heard it before, the comments labeling the second-year winger as a high work-rate player who doesn’t add all that much in the final third.
But in the New York Red Bulls’ 2-0 win against D.C. United on Saturday night, Muyl showed he can pack plenty of punch, scoring a goal and looking dangerous to help the Red Bulls to a valuable home win.
Muyl scored early in the second half on Saturday, heading home a Sacha Kljestan corner kick to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead.
The 21-year old hasn’t been a regular on the scoresheet during his MLS career, recording two goals and six assists in 27 appearances during his rookie season last year. He came into the D.C. match with no goals nor assists in five appearances in 2017.
Last year, Muyl made a mark, but was almost exclusively lauded by media and fans for his work-rate – not his offensive prowess. That was a departure from his time in college at Georgetown, where he was a goal scorer and consistent offensive threat for some successful Hoyas teams.
On Saturday, he got back to those roots.
“It’s just going back to who I am. It’s funny, throughout my whole career, I was never the guy who was going to do the dirty work. I was never a blue collar player,” Muyl said after the Red Bulls win.
“I came here and I think that was something I was able to do. I think it got me on the field before maybe I was even ready sometimes. With me, it’s just now about becoming who I am. I can do that part, I love doing that part and I love helping the team win. But I also want to show that I can score goals, help setup goals and hopefully I can continue to do that.”
In his appearance off the bench last week at Orlando City and again on Saturday night, Muyl has taken players on 1-v-1, showing creativity and flair. It’s a side to his game head coach Jesse Marsch sees regularly in training, but one that has often taken a back seat in regular season matches.
“Well, I think there's been some parts of the conversation that I wouldn't want to share, but I'll say this, [with] Alex, he knows that his next step is more quality, more goals, more assists, more chances,” Marsch said. “I know he has it in him because I watched him in college, and he was a goal scorer and he was a final-play guy. And I'll be honest, I underestimated the ability he has to run and compete and push on that end.
“I know it's only a matter of time, and sometimes with young attacking players they just need to get more into a comfort zone and more confident and then the final plays will start to come, and Alex I'd definitely put in that category, so I expect him to be much more productive from a goal scoring and assist perspective this year.”
The Red Bulls’ switch over the last two games from a 4-2-2-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 is perhaps ideal for Muyl. The new formation is a much easier setup for him to get free on the wings than the 4-2-2-2, which tends to see wide players pinch in centrally more often.
“It’s taken a while for me to really get comfortable and be ready to risk things and be not afraid to make mistakes. I think that’s going to help,” Muyl said.
“Still working on it, still a process. But for young players, it’s never easy. Obviously, you never want to let the older guys down. Once you get through that, it’s a learning curve. It just opens up the rest of it.”