Ben Solomon

Belief, Adjustments Lead to Red Bulls Win

This match in mid-May felt like a match in mid-November.

The atmosphere was buzzing as the New York Red Bulls took on Atlanta United at Red Bull Arena, a rematch of the 2018 MLS Cup Eastern Conference Finals.

At the end of the 90 minutes, the Red Bulls were victorious, 1-0, off the head of a player signed just 11 days earlier.

Tom Barlow, 2018 MLS SuperDraft second round pick, headed home an incredible cross from Daniel Royer to put the Red Bulls up -- even when they were down a man. 

"It feels great. It feels great to win. It feels great to win at home in the fashion that we did," Head Coach Chris Armas said after the match. "It's great to see our guys commit the way that they did, on every play, for the entire game."

New York had to play nearly an hour with just 10 men on the field, following a red card issued to centerback Tim Parker for the denial of a goal scoring opportunity. The Red Bulls made some quick changes, and held their own until halftime, where they could regroup.

"At halftime, we talked about a few of the ways that we'll score," Armas said. "We knew we could create a few chances, whether it's a set piece or a foul, because we are going to be in transition from us being organized and catching them, or it could be from some football where we are going to have courage to play. Sean Nealis drives on the ball, our center back, and he makes a really good pass just to give us an out, and then Danny puts a perfect pass.

"Listen, Danny Royer, what he's meant for our team in these years, it's very inspiring, his play. He's intelligent and he's always up for it, he's intelligent both sides of the ball and tactically, he's always connected," Armas said.

Coming out of the locker room for the second half, confidence was high among the Red Bulls, despite the opposition's man advantage. 

Subbing on for Brian White, Barlow benefitted from a run from centerback Sean Nealis, who was forced into the game when Parker was issued the red card. Nealis took the ball 30 yards, over the midfield line, before he dished to Royer making a run down the sideline. After Royer had a chance to reset, he looked up and served up a perfect ball to a streaking Barlow. The forward was able to get up enough to get his head on it, putting it across the mouth of the goal before it found the side-netting. 

"I think we really believed we could win," Amro Tarek said. "Coach said this between the halves. We always want to win, but one man down to this team, we have to keep space tight in the back. So, it was incredible from Sean Nealis that he just steps and plays that ball and it’s an amazing goal from Tom Barlow."

Barlow's first MLS goal, coming less than two weeks after inking his first team contract, snapped Atlanta's streak of 521 minutes without allowing a goal.  

"At halftime when we regrouped, we really felt that we just needed one," Luis Robles said. "We were going to catch them on the counter and if we could stay together, keep communicating, keep encouraging each other, we were going to get a result. For it to work out the way that it did, only breathes confidence into this group."

Following a bit of a postgame push-and-shove, the Red Bulls were the winners on the day, keeping their undefeated streak alive against Atlanta on their home turf.

"I told you what was going to happen," Kemar Lawrence, who missed the Eastern Conference Finals, said after the game. "I told you I’m going win it, right? I’m going to win it for my team. We went out there and we did that."