Alex Muyl (right) scored his second goal in as many games for the Red Bulls (William Hausser/USA TODAY Sports)
By Brian Trusdell
HARRISON, N.J. – Alex Muyl and Daniel Royer scored their second goals of the season and the Red Bulls continued to recover from their four-game slump with a second consecutive 2-0 victory Saturday – this time beating the Columbus Crew.
The win improved New York to 13 points, same as Columbus, which – after finishing with the third-worst record in MLS last season – had won four of its last five and led the Eastern Conference entering Saturday night’s match.
After a 2-0 win over D.C. United at Red Bull Arena last week, the result represented the first time this season New York has scored more than one goal in consecutive games. It also was the team’s and goalkeeper Luis Robles’ fourth shutout of the year.
New York has not allowed a goal in four home games this season (3-0-1).
The Red Bulls went ahead in the 11th minute – the earliest they have scored in their eight games this season.
Standing near the midfield stripe, Felipe Martins found Sacha Kljestan on the left side at the top of the Columbus defensive third with acres of space ahead of him. Kljestan sprinted toward goal and sent a short ball to an overlapping Kemar Lawrence.
Lawrence hit a low cross into the middle, where Muyl saw it deflect up off his foot and then his chest as Columbus goalkeeper slid low to block it. The bounding ball caromed around goalkeeper Zack Steffen, leaving Muyl an easy tap into an empty net from a yard away.
The Red Bulls doubled their lead in the 38th on a penalty penalty by Royer after Felipe again sent a ball that sprung the play. Standing inside his own third, Felipe flicked a ball with the sole of his foot backward into the path of Royer, who dribbled 60 yards into the Columbus half.
Approaching the Crew penalty area, he sent short ball to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who twisted past Alex Crognale, whose slide tackle attempt only caused Wright-Phillips to fall backward on top of him and draw the penalty.
Columbus had to alter its plans less than a minute after kickoff. The Red Bulls broke in down the left side with Lawrence trying to get off a cross. Brazilian midfielder Artur was able to clear the ball for a corner in the 26th second, but as his kicked the ball, he spun and fell backward, landing on his left wrist.
He was clearly in pain and remained on the ground on the end line for nearly four minutes as medical personnel treated him. He finally walked off but with an air cast on his left arm, and the 21-year-old on loan from Sao Paulo immediately was replaced by Mohammed Abu.
New York outshot Columbus 7-5 in the first half (3-1 shots on goal), with Justim Meram getting the visitors’ best chances. Besides a right-footed drive from 20 yards that just sailed over the bar in the 41st minute, Meram’s best opportunity came nine minutes earlier when he sprinted in from the left untouched.
Robles came off his line to the edge of the six-yard box as Meram approached, blocking the shot with what appeared to be his face and sending it wide of the near post.
Both teams created chances in the second half. The Red Bulls’ best came when Wright-Phillips closed on the Columbus goal unmolested within 15 yards before his shot was blocked by Steffen in the 70th. Substitute Derrick Etienne also was able to get off a shot from within 10 yards. It rattled off the inside of Steffen’s legs before the Crew keeper was able to recover and smother the ball before it rolled over the goal line in the 72nd.
The Crew’s best chances came in the 62nd when Jukka Raitala’s free kick from 40 yards bounced once and hit the far post. Thirteen minutes earlier, Ola Kamara was able to spin at the corner of the goal box, only to see Robles well-positioned to snare it at the near post.
New York: Luis Robles; Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Aurelien Collin, Connor Lade; Tyler Adams, Felipe Martins, Sacha Kljestan (Sean Davis, 84th), Daniel Royer, Alex Muyl (66th); Bradley Wright-Phillips (Fredrick Gulbrandsen, 73rd).
Columbus: Zach Steffen; Jukka Raitala, Harrison Afful, Alex Crognale (Josh Williams, 39th), Nicolai Naess; Wil Trapp, Artur (Mohammed Abu, 6th), Justim Meram, Federico Higuain, Niko Hansen (Ethan Finlay, 61st); Ola Kamara.
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez.