Dane Richards always seems to play great against Houston, ever since 2008 when he near singlehandedly knocked the Dynamo out of the playoffs.
However, his hamstring injury early in the match may have proved fortuitous for New York, in a roundabout way.
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The injury meant NY were forced to insert rookie Tony Tchani into the game. That saw Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who started on the left following a string of good performances recently, move to the right wing.
Following the switch, Ubiparipovic may have had his best game of the season.
Juan Pablo Angel, who scored the stoppage-time free kick beauty to give New York the 2-1 win, will get the headlines, but it was Ubiparipovic who fought, hustled and was at times mercurial in his effort.
The result ended the Red Bulls' four-game MLS losing streak. Ubiparipovic scored the game’s opening goal, just moments after switching to the right flank following Richards’ injury.
“I think Sinisa played very well, very well,” defender Danleigh Borman said. “The coaches have given him a lot of confidence, and he is playing well right now.”
Not only did the Red Bulls’ midfielder tally a goal, he also created multiple chances in the first half.
With that all said, Ubiparipovic admits he isn’t naturally a wide player.
“It’s not my preferred position," Ubiparipovic told MLSSoccer.com. "I like to be central, but [I'll play] anywhere I can help the team.”
All night long, New York clicked offensively and were the more dangerous team. Even when Houston equalized in the 65th minute via Brian Ching, the Red Bulls would not hang their heads.
“I think we responded every time very well,” head coach Hans Backe said.
The result was a game where New York registered a staggering 21 shots, including 10 efforts on goal, and had the majority of play and possession. The entire New York midfield controlled the game’s tempo and held the run of chances, even with the Richards’ injury hurting the original shape of the starting XI.
“This was the game we created the most chances so far,” Backe said.
Backe can probably thank Ubiparipovic for that, and though the midfielder may have been the unsung hero on Wednesday night, he was was quick to shrug off the attention.
“Sure, it always feels good to score a goal,” Ubiparipovic said. “But most importantly, we won and ended our recent losses. This is a good win for us.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.