HARRISON, N.J.— The path to the Eastern Conference Championship for the New York Red Bulls was a route taken down the wings.
Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl were dutiful navigators, driving a 3-0 win over Columbus Crew SC on Sunday night, good for a 3-1 aggregate win. Muyl opened the scoring on in the first half, deflecting Aaron Long's shot from a trademark well-worked set-piece routine. Royer then netted the series-clinching and insurance goals within three minutes of each other in the second half, the first a clinical finish from 12 yards out and the second a powerful strike from 20 yards.
“I did know we’d be better attacking this game,” Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips said after the match. “We needed a hero and Danny stepped up today.”
Royer’s 11 goals was second-highest on the team during the regular season, trailing only Wright-Phillips’ 20. He understands the importance of a multidimensional attack.
“We can’t just always give [Wright-Phillips] the pressure of scoring goals,” Royer said. “All of us, we’re trying to help him out. It makes me happy and it makes the entire team happy that sometimes we can take the pressure off his shoulders.”
Royer and Muyl did more than just take the pressure of Wright-Phillips against Crew SC and it was just how head coach Chris Armas drew it up.
“Tonight, the emphasis tonight was to attack the flanks,” Armas said. “And we did. The wide play was great.”
Armas wasn’t shocked in the slightest that Muyl stepped up for the team because of his mentality.
“We talk about being fearless, it helps if you put guys on the field that are fearless,” Armas said. “He doesn’t back down from the moment, he’s up for it all the time. We’ve seen that in him the last few years. Alex also tactically understands how we’re pressing, his specific role, how he fits into the team. It’s so important.”
As for Royer, his two goals sent Red Bull Arena into a frenzy. He was substituted in the 84th minute to a well-deserved roar from the crowd. The Austrian took his time exiting the pitch, sure to reciprocate the fans' applause.
But the praise didn’t stop there, as his teammates were effusive when discussing his heroics in the locker room.
“In the box Danny’s very clinical,” Wright-Phillips said. “If people had to guess, this is an area they’d probably say I’m the best finisher. If I could choose anyone, I’d put Danny with a chance in the box.”
Royer wouldn’t even entertain that conversation when it comes to the team’s best finisher.
“Come on, seriously, he scores so many goals. … Bradley: humble as we know him,” Royer said with a smile.