Luis Robles recorded his fourth home clean in as many games at Red Bull Arena. (William Hauser/USA TODAY Sports)
By Brian Trusdell
HARRISON, N.J. – After only five goals in their first six games (and two of those own goals), the Red Bulls seem to have rediscovered where the net is.
For the second straight week, New York scored twice – the first time this season that it had scored more than a goal in consecutive matches – and defeated the Columbus Crew 2-0 at Red Bull Arena Saturday night.
“It’s still early, it’s only eight games,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “But we’re getting to the point where you can see where we’re getting better every day.
“We feel like there’s momentum. We feel like we’re moving this thing forward.”
The Red Bulls found the net in the 11th minute, the earliest it has scored this season, and seemed comfortable throughout, despite requiring goalkeeper Luis Robles to sacrifice his face to make one save in the first half and then watch another long free kick bounce off his right post in the second half. Robles and the Red Bulls registered their fourth home shutout in as many games (3-0-1).
Alex Muyl and Daniel Royer recorded their second goals of the season and Robles recorded his fourth shutout as New York improved to 13 points. That pulled it even with Columbus, which, despite finishing with the third-worst record last year, entered Saturday night’s game with four wins in its five previous games and led the Eastern Conference.
Columbus ran into trouble from the start when Brazilian midfielder Artur broke his wrist 26 seconds after the opening kickoff. Kemar Lawrence found space down the left side and as he approached goal, Artur was able to spin to knock the ball out for a corner, but as he pirouetted fell backward and landed on his left hand.
The 21-year-old Brazilian on loan from Sao Paulo remained on the ground for nearly four minutes as medical personnel treated him and he walked off under his own power, but with an air splint encasing his left arm.
“He’s going to need surgery,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “I can’t speak for 10 other guys, but a little bit it has to affect play. We just feel bad for Artur.”
Mohammed Abu was an emergency replacement, but the Red Bulls exploited the same side for their first goal when Felipe Martins found Sacha Kljestan at the top of the Columbus third. With space, Kljestan turned, sprinted at goal, clipped a short ball to an overlapping Lawrence, whose cross made it to Muyl’s foot – and then chest – before Muyl found himself alone a yard from goal for an easy tap-in.
It was Muyl’s second goal in as many games after scoring the opener a week earlier in a 2-0 victory over D.C. United.
“Tactically, [Muyl] has always been sound. He’s worked his butt off, but now he seems to be getting to a point where his confidence is rising,” Kljestan said.
Felipe set up the second goal in the 38th minute, releasing a streaking Royer, who dribbled 60 yards before knocking it just ahead to Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Wright-Phillips worked to get around Alex Cragnole, who went down taking the Red Bulls forward with him for a penalty. Royer converted off the fingertips of goalkeeper Zack Steffen for a two-goal advantage.
Cragnole was slow to get up and also had to leave the game a minute later.
The Red Bulls’ had other chances and outshot Columbus 15-10, including 7-2 shots on goal. Its 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.
But Columbus had its moments. Besides Jukka Raitala’s driving a free kick from 40 yards bounced once and hit the far post in the 62nd, Justin Meram was a threat throughout, starting with the 32nd minute when he found space on the left side and sprinted unchecked into the penalty area before unleashing a shot that Robles had to block with his face.
“I’m hoping when the swelling goes down, I’ll look better,” Robles said, laughing afterward.