Jul 14, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl (19) chases the ball against Sporting Kansas City midfielder Yohan Croizet (10) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. – Chris Armas avoided another defeat Saturday and recorded his first victory as the New York Red Bulls’ head coach.
He can thank Marc Rzatkowski for that.
Rzatkowski came off the bench and bagged a brace to help the Red Bulls (11-5-2, 35 points) rally to a 3-2 home win over Sporting Kansas City (9-5-6, 33 points). New York wasted an early lead and found itself trailing, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena after 51 minutes, but Rzatkowski flipped the script by scoring his first two goals with the club in a seven-minute span.
The German midfielder’s first strike came in the 72nd minute, as he buried the equalizer from the center of the penalty arc following a strong, low pass from Tyler Adams on the right. Rzatkowski then pushed New York ahead for a good seven minutes, smashing a shot from even further out just passed the fingertips of outstretched Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia.
“Marc has had plenty of great games for this club,” said Armas, who earned his first three points in his second game as Red Bulls manager. “You hit the first goal like that and all of a sudden you can see that almost every possession, every play, it just was a lot of confidence. We know that players grow in those moments.”
New York may have needed to rally in the second half, but the club actually took the initial lead after just four minutes. Star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips collected a pass from Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra on the play and clipped a shot over Melia.
Head referee Kevin Stott initially waved the goal off because of an offside call, but he then changed his decision and awarded it again upon hearing from Video Assistant Referee Matthew Franz. The goal was Wright-Phillips’ 12th of the season.
“I haven’t seen the first goal. I don’t know if it was offsides or not,” said Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes. “I’ve heard different stories.”
Sporting KC wasted little time in pulling level, however. In the eighth minute, a cross from the left found Graham Zusi on the right flank, and his ensuing low ball was sent home from close range via a one-timed finish from Johnny Russell.
“It’s a bad goal to give away,” Wright-Phillips said. “They score, and then after we just couldn’t find our way. We didn’t play well, we weren’t recovering well – the forwards included – and it just didn’t look good.”
Sporting KC enjoyed strong spells of possession and pieced together some good attacking sequences before halftime. The visiting side then stunned the Red Bulls and their fans with a powerful strike from Roger Espinoza, who sent a 51st-minute rocket past soaring Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
Armas quickly went to his bench, replacing Alex Muyl with Derrick Etienne in the 59th minute and then inserting Rzatkowski for Kaku a minute later. Rzatkowski made the biggest impact, though, as the super-sub rescued the Red Bulls with a pair of superb efforts from distance.
“It means a lot for me,” said Rzatkowski. “I’m really happy for the whole team, but for sure also for me that I could help the team with two goals tonight. It’s a big night for me, and the whole team.”