For the New York Red Bulls, Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps went as many of their recent matches did. They were dominant in possession and shots, and even looked like the better side. They usually succumbed to defensive errors that would see them tie or lose matches. Against Vancouver, though, the Red Bulls eliminated errors and clinched a playoff spot, instead collecting a 3-0 victory, snapping a nine match winless streak and collecting their first clean sheet in four matches.
“I think we’ve been dominating many performance games, we’ve been controlling many games but we’ve been walking away what feels like empty handed,” head coach Jesse Marsch said following the victory. For Marsch, the key was “to have belief that even though the three points haven’t been coming; that we’re there and that we’re close and it’s just about a few little details.”
Those little details included concentrating the team’s defensive performances in training over the last week after his side had conceded three or more goals three matches in a row. “I’ll be honest. I’ve been challenging our defenders. I’ve been challenging them to perform at a higher level because we’ve made too many mistakes.”
Goalkeeper Luis Robles elaborated, saying that Marsch “really challenged each defender and all the goalkeepers to be different, to make a difference.” It is nothing new from the coach, though. “In the beginning of the season, he did that to the attacking players because we weren’t getting goals but we’ve been scoring,” Robles said. “So, now it’s on our end.”
Marsch gave plaudits to left back Connor Lade, while also recognizing the contributions of the three center backs Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, and Damien Perrinelle.
Sacha Kljestan also had praise for the defense, saying he was “very proud of them and very happy for them that they can build off of a very good performance.” He also singled out Long for his performance on the night. “Obviously Fredy Montero is pretty special but I thought Aaron Long did a great job on him tonight,” the captain said.
The Red Bulls defense was not the only one that put in a solid shift, though, as the offense scored three times. As Robles puts it, “it wasn’t as if it was just the defensive unit that took that [criticism] personally. The entire team did, and it galvanized us going into this matchup.” Many in the offense put in strong performances, including Daniel Royer, one of the goalscorers, and Tyler Adams, who recorded two assists.
Royer grabbed the match’s first goal, his second since returning from an injury a little more than a week ago after spending 11 matches on the sidelines. Marsch said that his side “knew he was important…When he went down, that’s when some of our results started to shift,” as the Red Bulls had won only twice while Royer was injured. “The key for [Royer] was to pick up right where he left off,” the coach said, adding that the “credit goes to Danny” himself.
Royer, though, praised some of his teammates, including Kljestan, for making it a seamless entry back to the starting lineup. “That’s not really easy always,” the Austrian said about building chemistry. He added that he knew his teammates were “ready” for his return, though.
As for Adams, the members of his team also could not stop gushing. Marsch said that “it’s fun to see such a brave, talented young man grow up before your eyes,” adding that “we all take a lot of pride in Tyler, and certainly we all believe in him in such a big way.”
Bradley Wright-Phillips added that “he’s one of the players we count on now. For such a young guy, he takes that pressure and he enjoys it.”
Adams himself, fresh off a two assist performance and a two goal performance ten days earlier, was hesitant to admit if he was enjoying the best stretch of his young career thus far. However, he did share that “goals and assists are something I want to add to my game, and they’re coming at the right time.”
At large, it was a good day at the office for the Red Bulls, who were finally able to change the ending of the story they were telling over and over. “We not only had a great start, we dominated a game for 90 minutes and we controlled almost every aspect of the game,” Marsch said, “and then we get a big win.”