ANALYSIS – Dante Vanzeir’s first MLS goal sealed the Red Bulls first win of the season, a 2-1 comeback over the Columbus Crew Saturday night. Alexandru Matan opened the scoring after miscommunication from Carlos Coronel and Andres Reyes led to a simple finish into an empty net. New York turned up the pressure in the second and turned in two goals. Luquinhas followed up on a rebound to score the first, Vanzeir the game-winner in the 86th minute. Red Bulls win their first game of the season, Columbus are now winless in their last 10 road matches dating back to last season. Here are three big takeaways from the contest in Harrison
Three Takeaways from New York Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew
Fourth time’s the charm for Dante Vanzeir and the Red Bulls
The Red Bulls needed this one big time. Another draw would’ve raised huge questions and seeds of doubt into this group. And sure enough, when the Crew took the lead it felt as though the Red Bulls wouldn’t be able to climb out of this deficit. Remember, before Saturday night, New York hadn’t scored more than a goal in a single game yet this season. Nobody would blame you for thinking they weren’t going to get two goals over 90 minutes, much less in a single half.
But that’s just what they did. And give Gerhard Struber credit for his substitutions. Elias Manoel came on for Daniel Edelman to start the second 45, had a shot at goal and created a chance. Luquinhas scored his first goal since last June, a welcome sight for him and fans alike. “I was really happy with this goal,” Luquinhas said postgame. “I was expecting this goal for a long time as I have said in previous interviews. Really happy to finally get this one.” A Man of the Match type performance from him. He was a handful for the opposition, leading him to be fouled seven times!
Match ball #️⃣1️⃣ for @dantevanzeir pic.twitter.com/qjbKHmqu2i
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) March 19, 2023
Dante Vanzeir wins the headlines. The Belgium came in for big money, fans were pleading for him to play from the start. He was subbed on for Cameron Harper in the 75th minute, and didn’t disappoint. Andres Reyes lobbed a ball into the left flank for John Tolkin, who ran into the space. The American then chipped a cross onto the back post for the Belgium to convert the game-winner. A huge three points for the Red Bulls, and hopefully a result that can spring them forward.
Cucho badly missed by the Crew
There was a bit of a surprise in the Columbus starting XI that a certain number 9 didn’t lead the line. Cucho Hernandez missed the game with knee pain, and the Crew absolutely felt his absence. Yaw Yeboah took his spot in the attacking third, while Matan and Lucas Zelarayan had to shoulder the load.
Columbus engineered 5 shots the entire game, and only three were on target. Much of the credit goes to the home team for limiting the opponent. Will Sands and Mohamed Farsi were unable to create from out wide and resorted to recycling possession. Jimmy Medranda who scored last week at Toronto, only played 9 minutes and did very little in that time. So it’s fair to say that this team will go as far as the Colombian striker will take them.
ALEX MATAN 🇷🇴 – 𝗙𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗠𝗟𝗦 𝗴𝗼𝗮𝗹!
I felt it coming, here it is! The extra luck needed to open his record in America. Alex Matan, who was lined up as a false 9 tonight, confirms. Once again, thank you coach @wilfriednancy. #Crew76 #MLSpic.twitter.com/YBdynXug5j
— Alex Scout (@AlexScoutRo) March 19, 2023
Wilfried Nancy will have his work cut out for him looking for solutions. Matan is serviceable, but he’s going to have to take that next step in his game. Zelarayan can be brilliant on his best days, but the support behind him is lacking a lot to be desired. Crew fans will hope it’s nothing serious and their main man will be back in action soon.
Defense wins, and it’s the Red Bulls calling card
Are we seeing a re-emergence of this Red Bulls defense? While most of the attention this offseason went to Dante Vanzeir, last years’ leading scorer Lewis Morgan and Brazilians Luquinhas and Manoel, not enough went to the back half of the pitch. Remember when Andres Reyes suffered a Jones fracture in January 2022? He missed the start of that season, but entering this season, he’s fully fit and is among the best defenders in all of MLS. He and captain Sean Nealis have been excellent, simply magnificent in neutralizing opposing attacks.
6 – @NewYorkRedBulls have faced only six shots on target this season, the fewest through four matches of a season since LA Galaxy (also 6) in 2010. Maze. pic.twitter.com/VEGKyHOPyL
— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) March 19, 2023
New York has allowed a league-low six shots on target thus far. It’s a good feeling knowing the defensive unit has started out terrifically out of the gates. It wasn’t that long ago this team conceded just 33 goals in a season, and Carlos Coronel tied the league lead in clean sheets (2021). Should this continue, you’ll be seeing a top-5 defensive unit throughout the year. Yes, it’s early but this backline has impressed and giving the offense a chance to figure things out and find a groove. The Red Bulls now take their talents on the road next week, at Charlotte FC.
Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports of New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir (13) on Mar 18, 2023; Harrison, New Jersey, USA