After trailing by one heading into halftime, four goals in the last 45 minutes propelled the New York Red Bulls past the San Jose Earthquakes, 4-1, in the team’s 2019 MLS home opener on Saturday, March 16. Two goals from substitute Alex Muyl and two late game clinchers from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer gave the team its first league win of the season.

Muyl, who was awarded man of the match following the game, did not start either this match nor the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League game earlier this week on the road against Liga MX’s Club Santos Laguna, which the team lost 4-2 (and lost the series 6-2 on aggregate). In his post game press conference, head coach Chris Armas spoke on his strategy to have Muyl come in late if a goal was needed towards the end of that match in Mexico.

“Alex is a guy that we rely on everyday,” Armas said. “He sets a standard of what a pro should look like. We all knew going into Santos we were down 2-0, and if it was almost any other scoreline he could be starting that game.”

In the 31st when taking the ball out of the RBNY end, midfielder Florian Valot was brought to the ground off a clean San Jose challenge. After a brief chat with medical personnel while gripping his leg, the still shaken up Valot walked off the field slowly of his own power and headed into the tunnel while Muyl took his place on the pitch a few minutes later.

Armas had no update on Valot following the game, who had just returned this season after suffering a torn ACL last July that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2018 season.

Photo: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The NYC native was mostly quiet to finish the first half but came alive in the second to pull his team out of a one goal hole. After a Wright-Phillips shot from outside the box was deflected, Royer found the loose ball on the left side. A low cross to a charging Muyl in front of the net evened the score at one each in the 51st minute.

The winning goal came twenty minutes later in the 71st, when a set piece pass set up Royer with the ball on the right side of the net. A pass into the box was deflected by a San Jose player but stayed in play and in the air. Muyl found himself in the landing spot and side kicked the goal right passed Earthquake’s goalkeeper Daniel Vega.

“I’ll say one thing about Alex Muyl, he doesn’t get enough credit,” Armas said after the game. “We have the pleasure of working with a guy like him who gives so much to the team everyday (and) understands how we play. I was thrilled he could come in and influence the game the way he did.”

Prior to the second half surge New York did not look focused in the early goings. With front line struggles and an inability to stop the San Jose offense from charging into the RBNY end, the team looked as though it was repeating the same type of mistakes that lead to its downfall in Mexico earlier in the week.

A goal in the first five minutes for the visiting team seemed to nail this point down. Quakes midfielder Cristian Espinoza received the ball off a long pass past the Bulls’ backline. A quick shot low got past a falling Luis Robles put his team up early. The dagger also endangered New York’s winning streak over San Jose at Red Bull Arena which stretched over nearly a decade since its’ opening in 2010 (4-0-2).

A possible factor in this sloppy performance may have been the absence of Kaku, who was left off the game day roster by Armas. For his credit, the head coach told the media he would only make one comment on the situation.

“We had a minor internal issues and we dealt with that quickly,” Armas said. “It’s nothing to talk about or discuss here. That was it. I’ll say that nothing changes our feeling with that.”

It remains to be seen if Kaku returns to the lineup in the next few days or if the international makes his own thoughts known on social media.

The defense held out long enough to get the team to halftime without letting another ball get past Robles. Following the break, which included a small ceremony honoring the club’s third Supporters’ Shield win last season, the group performed in a vastly different way compared to how it started the game.

With 14 shots coming in the second half, up from 9 in the first and more than three times the amount that the Quakes put up in the same amount of time (4), the team was able to put a constant pressure on Vega and the backline.

A BWP sealer in the 85th minute looked to be the end of it as the RBNY legend redirected a Sean Davis cross from the left side into the net from inside the goalkeeper’s area. But New York found one more as Michael Murillo crossed the ball into the box from the right side and found Royer who, without the ball touching the ground, slammed a shot past Vega so hard it looked as though it could have broken the netting.

The team returns to Red Bull Arena next week on Saturday, March 23, as New York faces off against Orlando City SC.

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