Monday Gaffer: Red Bulls show their spine

Despite poor first half, New York kept battling for rare RFK win

Salou Ibrahim

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

New York's 2-0 win over D.C. United on Saturday was important for the Red Bulls as it was their second road win of the season and the first victory at RFK Stadium since fall of 2005. The visitors didn’t play well in the first half, but they were effective and punishing in the second half—both goals came in the final 45 minutes to give them a memorable win over their biggest rival.

Four things to note from Saturday’s win:

This team has a backbone: Last year, when the Red Bulls were winless on the road, the team would have folded after a tough first half in which they got outplayed. Instead the Red Bulls came out, held their ground and ground out a win. This is clearly a different team, a fact poignantly struck home when considering its win total of five this season is equal to the number from all of last year. There are 24 more games left on the schedule, and the Empire Supporters Club are hoping to do plenty more victory serenades. “I just can’t get over the fact that we have five wins," team captain Mike Petke said. "Maybe we’ll sit down tonight and think about that. To be 5-1 in the first six games really puts ourselves in a good situation for the rest of the season. It’s unbelievable.”

Salou sizzles: In three MLS starts, recent addition Salou Ibrahim has two goals. He isn’t all that creative and not a fantastic distributor, but he churns and hustles for chances, which can lead to goals in any league. We’ll see if there is a place for him if New York signs a big-name striker (Thierry Henry?) this summer, but his movement off the ball has put himself in good positions to help the offense.

Ángel soars: New York's DP has four goals so far this season, and on Saturday he struck his second from open play. After a tough first half where he seemed to struggle in finding opportunities, Juan Pablo Angel settled into the game’s flow and scored a beautiful glancing header in the second half. Ángel is paid the big bucks to be effective and a difference maker, which he certainly was on Saturday.

Away support: They may not have the numbers as Seattle or Toronto, but the Empire Supporters Club always makes it presence felt. On Saturday, under the overhang of RFK where away support is relegated, a mass of fans stood and chanted and peppered the field with streamers. It was gratifying to see the team run over and celebrate with the away support, albeit at a distance, after the 2-0 win. Hearing the away fans clearly out-singing the always-vocal Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles is a testament to not just the effort of the 11 players on the field, but one of the loudest supporters clubs in MLS. It was goosebump stuff to hear the ESC’s songs echoing through the stadium in the game’s closing moments.

Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.