HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls used their inconsequential CONCACAF Champions League finale as a way to gauge which reserves are capable of contributing in the playoffs, and few, if any, players raised their stocks more so than Ian Christianson.
While it was Connor Lade who stole the headlines for scoring a late equalizer in his Red Bulls return, it was Christianson who seemed to be the fringe player that really improved his chances of seeing time in the postseason. The second-year central midfielder turned in a 90-minute shift in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw vs. the Montreal Impact in which he not only helped to limit the Canadian club to a few clear-cut scoring chances, but was also involved in several of the more promising sequences of possession for New York.
The performance earned the 23-year-old Christianson positive reviews. Not just from his head coach, but Montreal’s as well.
“I thought Connor and Ian’s partnership in the middle was [good] for a second time – the first time was up in Montreal, they did well there as well,” said Red Bulls manager Mike Petke. “The spacing was good, the distribution was good and they fought for the ball all night. I was impressed with that pairing right there, 100 percent.”
Added Impact boss Frank Klopas: “I thought Christianson in the middle did a very good job. He seems like a very technical player that kind of dictates the tempo, very good left foot. I know him back from [our days in] Chicago.”
Identified by Petke as one of the players he was keeping a keen eye on going into the match, Christianson did not disappoint. He did what he normally does and kept things simple, playing the ball quickly and safely to teammates while also providing plenty of defensive cover.
Christianson’s decision-making went a bit awry in the latter stages of the match and there were times where he Impact players tried to outmuscle him, but none of that was enough to overshadow a performance that the Georgetown product was pretty pleased with.
“I thought the first 60 minutes was fairly solid,” said Christianson, who has been counted upon to help close out three of New York’s last five league matches. “I thought my first half, recovered a good amount of balls and connected most of my passes. Towards the end, probably the last 20 minutes, just a little, not necessarily fatigue, but just not sharp and gave away a few passes that I wish I could have back.”
As good as his performance may have been, Christianson is unlikely to start in the last regular season game at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday or in the playoffs given the number of veteran options Petke will have at his disposal.
Christianson’s solid showing Wednesday should however merit some consideration for down the stretch, especially if the Red Bulls are in need of a late substitute in central midfield who is clean on the ball and has proven to be capable.
“It’s easy playing with him in the middle,” said Lade. “He’s a fantastic player. It was an easy transition and I thought we played well with each other, and look forward to keep doing so in the future.”