It wasn't "sexy" but three points are three points as the New York Red Bulls grinded out a victory vs. Sporting Kansas City.
"From the technical side, I would say the game was not super sexy to watch," Head Coach Gerhard Struber said. "I think we have to be honest with ourselves, I think we find in more directions not always control and it was difficult."
Aaron Long scored in the second half and New York hung on after going down to 10 men midway through the second half on a DOGSO red card to Sean Nealis.
"We knew it was going to be tough going into the game and we’re all very happy right now with the three points," Long said.
The victory marked New York’s first at Children’s Mercy Park since October 26, 2014.
"I think my boys showed me in the defensive structure, in the defensive behavior, very good moments, a mindset of a fighter, and especially in the underload situation -- without Sean Nealis -- that the group was so close together and left everything on the field," Struber said. "I would say with an all-in strategy of power and we gave [Sporting Kansas City] not the chance to score."
Carlos Coronel recorded three saves in the contest. The match marked his fifth MLS clean sheet of the season and sixth across all competitions. Coronel moved into sole possession of third all-time in club history for clean sheets with 18, passing Jon Conway.
"We can see the boys are growing, the boys had power to bring the points home in such a tough environment," Struber said. "I’m proud of also a situation like that, it’s not always technical or tactical highlights, today was a fighting highlight and also in this direction today we showed an interesting phase."
The victory marked New York’s sixth on the road this season, which leads MLS. New York is 6-3-1 on the road this season in MLS and has scored 15 goals in those matches, which ranks second in the league.
"That was a grind," John Tolkin said. "They have some class players, but we’ve got a class team. I think it’s great, it wasn’t our best performance, but I think those are gutsy wins and that’s good for our mentality."
With the victory, the Red Bulls moved into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points.
"We can’t let it get to our heads, every point matters," Tolkin said. "Obviously, we’re in a good place right now. If you compare it to last season, I think we’re just doing so much better. We have a really tight group right now and we’re taking it game-by-game."
Following Sunday’s match, New York will remain on the road and head to TQL Stadium to face FC Cincinnati on Saturday, July 9.
"It’s a tough stretch from here and it’s an important next month, but the guys will be ready and we’re just really happy and we’re in a good place right now but we have to stay focused," Tolkin said.