Apr 14, 2018; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence (92) and Montreal Impact defender Chris Duvall (18) fight for the ball during the second half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Getting in the ‘Flo’
Florian Valot opened eyes when he came off the bench to help set up Bradley Wright-Phillips’ second goal in a 2-0 win March 6 over Club Tijuana in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals.
The 25-year-old, who was promoted from Red Bulls II in December, has continued to impress. He was in the starting XI in the second leg of the CCL semifinals against Chivas de Guadalajara and Saturday he earned his third consecutive MLS start, picking up an assist on Wright-Phillips’ fifth-minute goal.
“He hasn’t played many first team games, but he’s very intelligent and he can do everything good,” Wright-Phillips said of Valot. “He’s fit. He’s got an eye for a pass, an eye for goal. He’s very easy to play with. He showed that since he’s come into this team. He’s been an important part for us.”
And although he didn’t pick up an assist on Kaku’s first league goal, Valot played an angled cross-field ball from the touchline to a streaking Wright-Phillips to set the table.
“I think he was one of the best players on the field, if not the best,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said of Valot. “He can play the way we want. He can run all day. He’s incredibly smart tactically and he can make attacking plays. The pass he gave for the second goal to Brad was phenomenal.”
‘D’ one of the keys
The Red Bulls are especially stout defensively at home, where they’re 5-0-1 in all competitions and 3-0-0 in MLS play. They’ve conceded twice this season at Red Bull Arena and just once in the run of play — a goal by Luis Mendoza 10 minutes into the second leg against Club Tijuana.
Marsch has hailed this defensive unit as the best. On Saturday, one of those regulars — Michael Murillo — also contributed to the attack with a 76th minute insurance goal.
“[Murillo] is really gifted physically, tactically, technically, and since he’s been here we’ve seen the qualities,” Marsch said. “He comes from Panama; he’s got a very tranquillo mode about him, so we’ve tried to ramp up, especially with what we do here. It’s a mentality thing, so we’re always trying to push his mentality to be the best that he can be — the best, most intense, most energetic, most concentrated version of himself. And when he is that, he’s very, very good. Very good. And the ceiling is very high.”
Moving up the charts
When Wright-Phillips put the Red Bulls in front five minutes after kickoff, it was his fourth league goal of the year and 90th of his career. The 33-year-old moved past Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruiz into 11th all-time in MLS history. He’s 10 behind Edson Buddle, who is 10th overall. Landon Donovan is the all-time leader with 145 goals.
“It’s a nice feeling,” Wright-Phillips said. “Obviously my job is to score goals and I try to do it week in and week out. It’s a nice feeling to do it for such a great club.”