It has been a few days since New York defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0, and the dust has settled enough for Red Bulls fans to lift a celebratory can of sugar-free … well, you know.
WATCH: Full match highlights
New York's complete effort was important to the club as it gears up for the stretch run and positions itself for the postseason.
Four important things to take from the match:
1. Bullish On The Road
New York didn’t win once on the road all last year, but this year they carry a .500 record, which includes five victories, in their road colors. All told, the Red Bulls have taken 19 points on the road in 2010 from 13 matches and boast a plus-one goal differential.
“It is a massive on-the-road win for us, of course,” head coach Hans Backe said after the win in LA. “We deserved this victory, I would say. The first half, after the first three or four minutes, we controlled the game.”
The five road wins is second-best in MLS and shows that New York are not intimidated on the road.
“It was one of the best performances so far from this team,” Backe said.
[inline_node:319213]2. The Mehdi Touch
Mehdi Ballouchy has played two games in Red Bulls colors, and he boasts as many solid performances. When he acquired Ballouchy two weeks ago, Backe called him the “missing link” – a player who could hold possession and help create chances.
New York hasn’t had a creative player like Ballouchy since the Amado Guevara days.
“Man of the match — absolutely outstanding," Backe said of Ballouchy. “I’m surprised that he is that good. He is all over the pitch. His passing game, he is so composed on the ball, wants the ball all of the time, gets our game going, set up strikers and wide players.”
3. The Midfield Dominates
Los Angeles head coach Bruce Arena credited the Red Bulls midfield with winning the match, and it’s clear that the unit is playing well following the addition of Rafa Márquez in August. Ironically, it was Márquez who, when these two sides met more than a month ago, gave up a soft pass that led to LA’s first goal. Márquez settled the match on Friday night, bringing composure to the field.
“It was not a tough battle — they outplayed us,” Galaxy midfielder Dema Kovalenko said. “They controlled the ball and we couldn’t get to the ball. We just didn’t adjust, I guess. They had too much room, too much space and that’s where the game is won, in the midfield.”
The four men in the midfield won the match for New York.
4. Playoff Bound
The Red Bulls can rest easy as Friday's win all but locked up a return to the postseason after last year's debacle. With 44 points and a handful of games remaining, New York have virtually guaranteed themselves second place in the Eastern Conference – and just a point behind Columbus, they have a legitimate shot at first, too.
It was sweet to see forward Juan Pablo Angel get the second goal, especially after all he has done for the team for three years and his benching last game in Dallas.
“We needed to win a game in order for us to make it,” Ángel said. “I think it was a great game, a great win and now we can look forward to the playoffs.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012