Red Bulls, Royer loving life as winning run grows: "It's just fun to play"

HARRISON, N.J. – Daniel Royer’s hot form continued on Saturday as the New York Red Bulls midfielder notched two goals in his team’s 4-0 win over the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena.

The Austrian’s recent run is a microcosm of his team, a side that was outside the playoff picture a month ago but has since climbed into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

With his showing against the Impact, Royer now has five goals and two assists in his last four league matches. He has scored in every match of the Red Bulls’ current four-game winning streak in MLS play, their longest unbeaten run of the season. Dating back to mid-June, they have taken 15 points from their last six matches, and Royer has been as influential as any of the team’s big names during this rise up the standings.

“I can’t say no because the past few weeks were good as a team, but also for me personally. It’s just fun to play,” Royer said following the match. “We were dangerous and aggressive in the attack, we are compact defensively.

Sacha [Kljestan] got great spaces, he’s great in those spots where he’s been and I think we’re connected with him – Sean Davis and me as No. 8, but also the guys on top and behind us, and it’s just fun to play. We have nice spots, we’re creating lots of chances, we have good combinations.”

Royer earned, then finished a penalty kick in the 24th minute after goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau took him down just outside the six yard box. Then in the 58th minute it was Royer deftly slipping a ball across the face of goal that was eventually hammered in by right back Michael Murillo for a 2-0 Red Bulls lead.

Royer would tally again late in the match. But beyond the boxscore, Royer was sensational on the night. He sniffed out pockets, making himself a willing outlet, and quickly played one-touch passes into space.

RBNY’s relatively new 3-3-3-1 formation, rolled out six weeks ago for the first time in the US Open Cup, appears to be clicking. They’ve netted 12 goals over their last three matches, the back three have been tough to break down and teams are having difficulty switching fields when they counterattack against their high press.

Royer has thrived in the formation. In the old 4-5-1, he was often isolated on the wing, but in the new alignment he can tilt in more centrally and find more time on the ball. The Red Bulls as a whole have been playing faster and more crisply, as suggested by their near-70 percent possession on Saturday night.

The victory was sweet revenge against an Impact side that knocked the Red Bulls out of the playoffs last year and had won three in a row against them coming into this match.

“The group is in a good way. I mean, there was clarity on the field, a lot of competence,” head coach Jesse Marsch said postgame, already looking ahead to next weekend’s New York Derby showdown with New York City FC at Yankee Stadium (Sunday, 6 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US, TSN2 in Canada). “We're all aware of the momentum that we have, the belief we have.

“I even think this team can get better, sharper, clearer, cleaner,” Marsch added. “So that's our drive right now. We know as a group that we've got potentially a huge week coming up, so we can't pat ourselves on the back too much. We have to make sure now that we find ways to get better, keep the hunger, keep the drive so that we keep moving our season along in all the right ways.”