The New York midfielder looked like one of the most dynamic players in the league before he suffered a knee injury two months ago that kept him out for seven matches. The winger was regularly creating havoc, and was named Alcatel MLS Player of the Month in July after scoring six goals and leading Red Bulls to a 4-0-0 regular season record that month.
New York took a significant downturn during Royer’s absence, going 1-2-4 in the seven games he missed. He returned with a substitute appearance in their 3-3 draw against D.C. United on Sept. 27, then returned to the starting lineup in a 4-2 loss at Toronto FC on Sept. 30 and in a 3-0 win against Vancouver on Saturday.
The Austrian has immediately hit top form, notching a goal and assist in the loss at TFC and scoring the opening goal as the Red Bulls clinched their Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff berth against the Whitecaps on Saturday.
“When he went down, that's when some of our results started to shift, and you know, when he got injured, the shame of it was he was on such a high confidence-wise and the key for him was to pick up right where he left off,” head coach Jesse Marsch said after the match.
“I think even he saw how much the team needed him, and he saw how much the team – I know it was hard for him to be out but he really wanted to get back so that he could help and he's picked up right where he left off and he's been fantastic again. So it's part quality, it's part mentality, it's part belief and it's part commitment to the group. Credit goes to Danny but it's great to have him back, that's for sure.”
Royer is talented on the ball and fearless in the attack, but his off-the-ball movement might be the most important part of his game. He has a unique understanding of where a winger should align in Marsch’s system. Against the Whitecaps, he sat in pockets for support, tucked in well defensively but also went out wide. His movement was superb, as evidenced on the game’s opening goal.
In the 33rd minute, Royer made a late run into the box off of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ left shoulder. Wright-Phillips dummied a pass from Sacha Kljestan – a ball that fell perfectly onto the path of Royer’s timed run.
On his third touch of the ball, Royer fired a shot inside the back post for his 12th goal of the year. It was the crowning moment of a performance where Royer looked every bit like the player who was so feared this summer.
“That’s not really easy always. I know the guys are ready and I’m here now for more than a year. I know Sacha can play those balls,” Royer said. “I just try to be dangerous and I just try to do what I always try to do. I think all the guys have been really dangerous and creative today, especially offensively, and yeah so it was easy for me as well. “
That type of dynamic movement frees up space for the Red Bulls and works so well with a team that places a high emphasis on their pressing and counter-pressing system. His return to the Starting XI should make this a dangerous team come playoff time.
“Yeah I mean we could have fixed it so much earlier. I mentioned it many times before that our working rate in all the games were really good and it didn’t really pay off, and it did today and I am really glad,” Royer said. “That’s a big sign for a good team spirit that when you have a chip on your shoulder and you got some pressure that you can deal with it.”