It was the Red Bulls’ second consecutive victory after a five-match winless streak, while the Galaxy had a seven-match unbeaten streak snapped with their second loss of the season.
“Chris was telling us at halftime that we were going to win the game, and I think there’s a lot of belief in the room,” midfielder Sean Davis said of the message from coach Chris Armas at halftime. “Overall a really good result for team morale, for the mentality of the group and I think it proves a lot of what we’ve been doing in training and how hard we have been working behind the scenes to get things right.”
Marc Rzatkowski equalized for the Red Bulls just before the hour mark with his first goal of the year. Connor Lade followed up his first blocked cross with a sublime ball into the box, where Rzatkowski blasted his first-time shot low and hard past Bingham from 14 yards out.
“I just saw that Connor made a run outside and made a great cutback,” Rzatkowski said. “I don’t know how he saw me, but it was a great eye from him and he played a great pass and I just tried my luck and give a shot on the goal. And I’m really happy that the goal was going in.”
Derrick Etienne Jr. put the Red Bulls in front 3-2 in the 67th minute, tapping in a ball played back from Danny Royer. The goal was initially called off for offside, but it was reversed on video review.
The Red Bulls took the lead in the 15th minute following a Rzatkowski set piece. Brian White got a touch on the German’s whipped in service and Amro Tarek took a touch before firing past David Bingham.
“I prefer a shutout than to score a goal,” Tarek said. “But of course it’s something good to score my first goal for the Red Bulls.
After that, the Galaxy took control of the rest of the first half, leveling in the 39th minute on Uriel Antuna’s second goal in as many games. Diego Polenta started the sequence by playing to an open Ibrahimovic, who slipped a first-time cross along the edge of the six-yard box where Antuna beat a sliding Connor Lade to the ball.
Four minutes later, Ibrahimovic got on the end of a Chris Pontius cross and put a diving header past Robles to give the Galaxy a 2-1 lead. The goal was upheld following video review, which checked to see if Pontius was in an offside position while receiving Polenta’s service.
Royer had the first quality scoring chance in a match with a bevy of chances on both sides, but the wide-open winger couldn’t latch onto Alex Muyl’s back-post cross in the eighth minute.
In the 13th minute, Muyl was denied by Bingham from point-blank range before Royer’s rebound attempt was blocked. Rzatkowski followed with a shot on frame from distance that Bingham parried away for the game’s first corner kick.
May 4, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) heads the ball past New York Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles (31) for a goal during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
In the most intriguing game-within-a-game matchup, Aaron Long battled Ibrahimovic, with the reigning MLS Defender of the Year winning the first duel in midfield. The LA Galaxy captain twice fouled Long inside the opening 20 minutes on 50-50 challenges that required the Red Bulls center back to get treatment from trainers.
Ibrahimovic had his first opportunity on the half-hour mark, finding space on the left edge of the 18-yard box and cutting inside of Tim Parker before Robles easily saved his low shot from 17 yards out.
The Swedish icon got the better of the matchup late in the first half with his goal and assist to put the visitors in front at the break.
“We lost the game. It doesn’t matter what I did,” Ibrahimovic said. “We missed a lot of chances. If we would have scored, we would have won. But they didn’t make it difficult for us.”
Omir Fernandez came on for Muyl as Chris Armas’ first substitute in the 54th minute and nearly leveled on his first touch, but Bingham got his right hand on it. Royer slipped and was unable to latch on to the loose ball before White’s attempt deflected out for a corner kick.
Pontius nearly leveled again for the Galaxy when he latched onto an Ibrahimovic cross, but he headed off the near post. Ibrahimovic then had an open look from 20 yards out, but Luis Robles did well to deny him of his second goal.
Ibrahimovic had the ball at his feet with a chance to level in the dying moments of second-half stoppage time, but his free kick deflected off the Red Bulls’ five-man wall for a corner kick that Royer punched away as the final whistle sounded.
Both teams have a quick turnaround with mid-week league matches as the Red Bulls host the Montreal Impact and the Galaxy stay on the road to take on Columbus Crew SC.
“We won’t get too ahead of ourselves,” Armas said. “It’s a good win. It’s a big win, and that means a lot to the guys … that’s how you gain confidence and that’s how you gain self-belief that you can battle the best and you can beat the best.”
It was a massive win against one of the league’s best teams, but there’s belief inside the Red Bulls locker room they deserve to be in that conversation as well.
“I think also we are one of the best teams in the league,” Tarek said. “So we just have to build on this and to keep going and to achieve better than we did last season. So I think this is a challenge now.”