HARRISON, N.J. — It wasn’t the ideal situation for Alex Muyl, but he also knows no one cares.
A regular starter for the last three years, the winger was left off the New York Red Bulls‘ gameday 18-man roster for the critical second leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals at Santos Laguna on Tuesday.
And the 23-year-old was on the bench for the start of the club’s MLS home opener Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
When Florian Valot went down with a knee injury late in the first half, Muyl’s number was called and he provided the necessary spark, scoring his first-ever brace to help the Red Bulls rally from an early deficit and defeat the Quakes 4-1.
“As a sub obviously it’s never easy to come into the game at that point,” Muyl said. “You’re not warm, you’re not really prepared, you’re not expected to play that much, but obviously luckily I’ve had enough experience with this team that I was able to step in and and thankfully help the team.”
Bradley Wright-Phillips, who broke a personal 11-game goalless streak in all competitions with his first goal late in the second half, lauded Muyl’s mentality.
“I had a little word with Alex after, telling him how much character that shows,” he said. “It’s tough for anyone when you get left out, you want to help the team win in a difficult place and he wasn’t chosen. To come back and score two and help us get that win is credit to him.”
Mar 16, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) and teammates warm up before their game against the San Jose Earthquakes at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Bulls had to climb out of an early hole after crafty Argentine winger Cristian Espinoza put the Quakes in front with his first MLS goal in the fifth minute.
The Quakes constantly attacked down Kyle Duncan’s side, with the converted left back struggling in the opening 45 minutes. But not getting a second goal before halftime proved costly.
Muyl leveled six minutes into the second half, tapping in a Danny Royer cross after the Austrian ran onto the rebound of a saved Wright-Phillips attempt.
“We have the pleasure of working with a guy like him who gives so much to the team every day, understands how we play,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said of Muyl. “So I was thrilled that he could come in and influence the game the way he did.”
Muyl added his second on a first-time attempt 20 minutes later, putting the finishing touches on a well-worked free kick from Sean Davis to Royer, who took a touch around Marcos Lopez and sent a deflected cross in front of the net.
It was a bit of trickery that’s been worked on during training and discussed between Davis and Royer beforehand.
“It always depends on which area of the field you want to try something. And we were not sure about the spot,” Royer said. “But then we kind of said, ‘Okay, let’s try it, will see if. If the spacing of the positions of the opponents and our positions worked out, we can try. If not, then just call it off. And luckily, everything went well.”
Wright-Phillips and Royer added insurance goals four minutes apart late in the second half to complete a massive turnaround from the first half when they were clearly the second best team.
“The first half it was a great game. The second half, it was pretty bad,” San Jose coach Matias Almeyda said. “It was against a team, they have been working together for five years now, and they already have their system installed. We’re still searching for a bunch of new things, a new mentality and new style of play and it’s going to take time.”
Muyl wasn’t the only regular starter left off Armas’ team sheet Saturday. Playmaker Kaku was left off the gameday 18-man roster altogether because of what Armas called a “minor internal issue” that was dealt with.
When pressed later, Armas alluded to Kaku’s tweets, saying “we’ve just got to be mindful of how we do some of those things.”