Having lost the first leg in Columbus, the New York Red Bulls came into Sunday night with their backs against the wall. The club knew they had to score two goals, while also shutting out the Columbus Crew, in order to advance to the Conference Championship.
The team responded by scoring three goals on the night, and notching their 15th shutout at Red Bull Arena, and will now face Atlanta United in two weeks, a series that will decide who represents the Eastern Conference in the MLS Cup.
The Red Bulls were flying from the opening whistle, playing the aggressive style Head Coach Chris Armas wanted to see out of his club.
"On the night we talked about being aggressive," Armas said. "It was a big emphasis coming in and I think the guys committed to that."
New York scored a goal before the first half ended, something they haven't done since October 6, when they played San Jose.
During his postgame press conference, Armas talked about how the first goal helped take a bit of pressure off the club, and how after scoring the first, the club felt confident that more would come in the second half.
"Getting the goal in the first half, it's good to relieve that pressure for the guys against a team that we knew would be organized and hard to break down," Armas said. "At halftime there were a few things to talk about. We knew in transition there would be some moments we could slow down a little bit more, but there's some little things in there tactically that we were letting slip in our pressing and we had to address that a little bit. But there was good energy in the locker room at halftime. A lot of belief that the second one was coming."
And the second one did come. After the half, the Red Bulls scored two more times, off the foot of Danny Royer, who scored two goals in a three minute span. After the match, Royer spoke with the media about his performance on the night, but focused more on the team.
"It’s a great feeling to help the team," Royer said. "At the end, it doesn’t matter who scores. It was a great team performance and that’s what counts, and I think we did a really good job in the 90 minutes today, and I think it’s well deserved."
Bradley Wright-Phillips echoed those same sentiments postgame, and touched on how the team was confident in completing the task at hand, especially at home.
“Great team performance," Wright-Phillips said. "We knew we had a job to do and we’re good at home. Today, I think I couldn’t pick out a bad player. I think everyone played well. We learned from our mistakes from last week. We looked dangerous on the attack. Defense was how it had been all season. There’s not a bad word to say."
Now the Red Bulls will prepare for Atlanta United, a club they've had success against, having defeated them both times during the regular season, once in Atlanta and again at Red Bull Arena.
New York isn't taking their next opponent for granted but are confident in being able to come away with the results they seek.
"They’re such a good team, and they are so possession-based," Defender of the Year Aaron Long said. "Trying to limit time and space for them and their great players is going to be tough, but we’ve done it before and we can do it again."