Mike Grella couldn’t have picked a better time to end his scoring drought.
With the playoffs around the corner, Grella, who had not netted a goal since his brace against the Seattle Sounders on June 19th, finally scored a goal during the New York Red Bulls’ 2-2 victory Sunday afternoon against the Columbus Crew.
The midfielder broke the scoring slump in the 53rd minute, with a beautiful shot to the right corner in front of the South Ward. The goal was an important one on the day and in the grand scheme of things, as the Red Bulls push towards what they hope will be a long postseason run.
“It was an awesome feeling for me personally, to see Mike score that goal,” said Sacha Kljestan, who assisted the finish. “He’s been a big part of us for two years now. We all know that Mike has quality and we all believe in him. It was great for him to show that tonight to everybody.”
Grella will be an important piece for the Red Bulls if they want to finally capture that elusive MLS Cup. The midfielder has had plenty of competition for his spot in the starting lineup over the 18 match goal-less run, with designated player Gonzalo Veron and newcomer Daniel Royer vying for a place in Jesse Marsch’s side.
While Veron has failed to nail down a spot in the lineup when given opportunities to start, Royer has shown to be impressive since his move from FC Midtjylland. The Austrian has one goal in six matches for the Red Bulls, but an injury at the beginning of the month has sidelined him for two to three weeks.
New York head coach Jesse Marsch has felt the pain for Grella, but the Red Bulls boss believes he needed to enjoy the game to take pressure of his own shoulders and compared Grella’s pressure to a certain basketball legend.
“Sometimes I think Mike’s very hard on himself,” Marsch said, “and as things maybe don’t start going his way from a scoring perspective he starts to think too much. Even he and I talked a little bit about the zone, and players who talk about in the zone, and Michael Jordan is one of those players, where he said actually when I’m in the zone I wasn’t even thinking.
“In some ways, you know its not like I wanted him to stop thinking, but I wanted him to stop putting so much pressure on himself, and I wanted him to just go out and enjoy playing”
Grella’s chemistry with Kjlestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alex Muyl is a huge reason why the Red Bulls have been able to play a very intricate passing game, something that has also led to Bradley Wright-Phillips leading the league in goals.
Marsch knows the Grella’s impact on the field goes beyond the goal scoring, with chemistry between the front attackers being key to unlocking the opposition’s back line.
“Obviously when he scores goals that is a big part of being an attacking player, and I think [with] all attacking players it helps with confidence that they now are on a streak of scoring goals,” Marsch said. “For example look at Brad. But with Mike, [I] just tried to encourage him to let him know that its so many things that make him good, so many things that make our team good than just scoring goals, and to keep him pushing hard.”
With the Red Bulls practically clinching first place in the Easter Conference, the pressure is on in Harrison for the Red Bulls to change their destiny and finish with their first ever MLS Cup. If that dreams is to come true at Red Bull Arena, they will likely need a high flying Grella in the postseason.