Luis Gil, 18, scored the final goal of a 2-0 win over New York to lead a young contingent of fresh contributors for RSL.
Head coach Jason Kreis, forced to draw on several young players in the wake of early season injuries, was happy to walk out with full points but recognized that the team can still get better.
"I think it needs to be said that we need to continue to improve," said Kreis. "Tonight was certainly nowhere near perfect. The effort was great, but in the second half there I felt we really should have been scored on."
That may have had something to do with the halftime substitution of Kenny Cooper who changed the offensive dynamic of the the Red Bulls. Their possession improved by 13 percent with Cooper on the field. His chemistry with Thierry Henry created more and more dangerous chances for the visitors as the half went on.
"Henry and [Cooper] I think have a very good connection. They're always looking for each other," said RSL defender Tony Beltran. "We were under it a lot of the second half."
The shaky moments in the second half notwithstanding, RSL controlled the game from the outset and pulled away before New York could make it interesting. And fittingly, it was the young players who were front and center for the most pivotal moments of the game.
Chris Schuler was a rock in the central defense, filling in for the injured Nat Borchers. Paulo Jr. was solid all night, and it was his flick that sprung Espindola for the game's opening goal. Gil had another solid outing in the No.10 spot, taking the place of Javier Morales. Finally, Sebastian Velasquez had another very active night, one of his passes being the one that set up the final goal.
Kreis was full of praise for his younger players.
"[Schuler] is making a huge contribution at the moment," said Kreis. "Paulo is doing everything that's asked. The defensive work he's putting in has been fantastic. Guys like that are stepping forward in a big way."
"Even though we have some new guys, I feel like they're fitting in really well," said Gil. "I feel like we're off to a good start. We're working together as a team."
RSL will have the chance to make another step forward next week as it hosts Chivas USA at Rio Tinto Stadium.
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