Bradley Carnell isn’t taking anything extra from winning his first game as interim coach of the New York Red Bulls. He’s viewing it as three points, not some special personal milestone.
But for a Red Bulls team that had endured a turbulent last few weeks, with three losses in the previous four games, a coaching change and a three-goal home defeat to the Philadelphia Union that followed, it was hard to quantify the significance of a 2-0 victory over D.C. United at Audi Field Saturday night.
“What it means for me, it means nothing for me. It's just three points and the next game is looming, so my prep already starts tomorrow for the next opponent,” Carnell said after the match. “What it means for the team, I think that's important. I think it's really a relief for the players, I think it's a relief for the club and I think that's the most important takeaway for the players. I told the players individually today in the meeting, it's all about you. It's you, It’s you, It’s you, I think if we have a bunch of yous collectively, we will be strong. I think you could see that from the performance. I think you can see that from the guys who stepped on the field that everyone was dialed in.”
Aaron Long got things rolling for the Red Bulls with a headed goal in the first half off a free kick service from Kaku. He said the full week between games was a relief, with the team enjoying two actual days off.
“It feels good, it's a lot of hard work,” Long said. “It's been a lot of changes like you said, we've got a couple down weeks with some ties and some losses and a pretty bad loss last week at home, which we're not used to, so it feels good to finally feel like the hard work is paying off and we're back to business and back to three points.”
Newcomer Dru Yearwood, who made his first MLS start, said he only found out just before kickoff the significance of the longtime rivalry between the clubs. But he already understood how huge those three points were for the Red Bulls’ confidence going forward.
“I think these three points, confidence-wise, should do the boys and myself massively a load of good,” Yearwood said. “I feel we should really be proud of what we’ve done tonight and the fans should be proud of what we’ve done tonight because we haven’t had a sort of easy ride in the last two weeks, losing the manager and things like that. These things happen and it’s sort of bouncing back now.”
While the Red Bulls feel energized from a much-needed win, D.C's morale is dropping. That last-second win at Red Bull Arena on Sept. 2 was their only victory in the last nine games. There was an improved offensive performance from their last few, but coach Ben Olsen said his team took a step back defensively, conceding what he called a soft goal off a set piece in the first half that put them behind the 8-ball.
“As a coach, you’re always worried about your team's mentality and morale and trying to pick them up when on a day like this where you feel a little bit like we deserved more and we're still searching for the goals,” Olsen said after the game. “So, yeah, always concerned with that, you're always taking that temperature. But I've been around enough to hopefully keep the morale somewhat high.
“But it's OK if we're pissed off and we're upset because we're not in a great spot right now, as a group, but we also still have to be realistic and understand that there was some positives out of this game. But we also have to point out some of the negatives and get better and try to improve and finish off some plays and get a little bit more scary on offense and continue to try to be the team that can put up shutouts.”