GIACOMETTI: Three Takeaways From Win Over Union

Luis Robles Philly

CHESTER, Pa. – Another regular season is in the book, and the New York Red Bulls have plenty to show for it.

Closing out their 2016 campaign with a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, the Red Bulls kept their foot on the gas pedal as head coach Jesse Marsch sent out his first-choice starting XI despite having already locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The decision paid dividends as New York now enter the playoffs as the hottest in MLS, unbeaten in 16 league matches.


Solid gold.

For the second time in three seasons, Bradley Wright-Phillips has topped the goal-scoring charts to take home the Golden Boot.

Notching the winning goal on Sunday afternoon (his league-leading seventh of the season), the Englishman brought his tally up to an astonishing 24 goals, none of which came from the penalty spot. Wright-Phillips became the first player since 2007 to accomplish such a feat.

Yet in typical fashion, New York’s best-ever goal scorer elected to take a team-first approach to his accolade.

“Like I was telling the team before, it isn’t everything. I’ve won it before and the team didn’t win the MLS Cup,” he told reporters after the win. “At the end of it all I’ve got the Golden Boot but the goals don’t count for anything unless you win the MLS Cup.

“I started off terribly. If I didn’t rob a goal from Mike [Grella] it could have been a whole different season, but it turned out ok.”

Pacing a New York side that put up incredible offensive numbers (61 goals, second in MLS), Wright-Phillips was instrumental in the team’s success all year long, and Marsch is expecting more of the same as the playoffs beckon.

“We’re all really excited for Bradley,” he said in his postgame press conference. “It’s a huge individual accomplishment, no doubt. He was quick to thank the group in the locker room after because he knows that it takes a group effort. Certainly Bradley has been huge for us this year and comes up with big goals at all moments. He is in a really good way right now and I think our whole group is in a really good way right now.”

Hold on the Road

Talen Energy Stadium hadn’t been too kind to the Red Bulls in 2016.

In their two prior trips down I-95, the Red Bulls saw halftime leads disappear, dropping a 2-1 result to knock them out of the U.S. Open Cup and seeing a 2-0 lead turn into a 2-2 draw in league play. But on Sunday night, New York flipped the script.

Bagging goals on either side of halftime, the Red Bulls managed to see this one out and take home the full three points.

“It's always fine lines between success and failure in different moments,” Marsch said. “When we had a 2-0 lead, I think we made a few more plays, we played in their end a little bit more. We were a little tighter in the back and we didn't give too much away. Luis [Robles] still had to come up with a couple of saves but that’s what it's like when you have the lead, especially on the road.

“I think this will build confidence within our group and certainly means, even though I'm answering my own question, hopefully we don't have to answer these questions as much because we have belief in our team and have belief late in the games.”

Earlier in the season, there was plenty of talk as to how the Red Bulls could more effectively manage games down the stretch. Playing with the lead on Sunday afternoon, they were able to keep their nerve, and a clean sheet to boot.

“We knew that tonight was a great dress rehearsal for the playoffs,” Robles said. “We know we’re going to have an away game and those games are about managing results. So for us, it was important to get the result and the shutout tonight because that will put us in the driver’s seat going home during the playoffs.”

Beasts of the East

It was more or less a formality, but the Red Bulls officially locked up their second consecutive Eastern Conference title on Sunday afternoon.

The win lifted New York to 57 points on the year, three points off their Supporters’ Shield winning pace from 2015. As the top seed in the East, the Red Bulls are guaranteed home field advantage all the way to MLS Cup, and would host the final should any team not named FC Dallas or Colorado Rapids win the West.

We wanted to be a strong team and come into the playoffs strong but more importantly we wanted a clean sheet. I know there has been a lot of talk about how we give up goals this season but we wanted to correct those wrongs.

“From the beginning of the game, we were on top of the things and went after it,” Marsch said. “We keep our momentum going, we’re ready for the playoffs, and we came out of it injury-free. In all ways, we’re ready for the next big challenge.”