It wasn’t pretty and, for long stretches, Seattle outplayed New York on Saturday night, finishing the match with the edge in nearly every offensive category. But for New York, a win is a win is a, well, a win and a rare road ‘W’ at that. Here are five keys from Red Bull's 1-0 victory:
1) The System Works: Last year, then head coach Juan Carlos Osorio constantly tinkered with the lineup, formations and player positions to the point that some wondered if the day was coming when star striker Juan Pablo Ángel would be the starting sweeper. Saturday night, even without Backe who was hospitalized that morning with stomach pains, New York kept its shape and clogged up the middle on Seattle. They stuck to what works for them, and it churned out a result in Seattle.
2) The Kandji Man: His sixth ever goal in league play was the winner against the Sounders and Mac Kandji made the most of his limited opportunities. He looked dangerous on the ball, found space wide and rarely made a misstep. After an average performance last week against Chicago, Kandji was the bright light for the New York offense.
3) Stammler Steps Up: In his first major action on the field in nearly a month, Seth Stammler played both ways and was a vital engine in the midfield. He destroyed so much of what Seattle was throwing at New York in the final third and he moved the ball well into space to preserve an offensive presence. A good job by Stammler in his return from injury. An unsung hero of the match.
4) They Back It Up: For a second straight week, the back line preserved the shutout. Goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul gets his props for several good saves, but the defenders neutralized the Seattle attack as well as can be expected. The back four get high marks through two weeks for maintaining shape, composure and distribution.
5) Richie Rich: After signing a contract extension earlier in the week, assistant coach Richie Williams was called upon to man the sidelines in the absence of the ill Backe. He made all the right calls, including substitutions and tactical decisions, proving why he some day should be a head coach in this league.
It may be wise for New York fans to invest in some Maalox this season as consecutive 1-0 wins both proved to be nail biters. But Red Bulls fans will gladly endure second-half tension to start getting the results they’ve seen the past two weeks.
This team would benefit from a true winger on the left side as the majority of play through the first 75 minutes went down the right wing, but this team is good enough to compete.
And after last year’s finish in the basement of the league, that’s good enough ... for now.