New York Red Bulls use "extra motivation" to claim Supporters' Shield lead


We know some things to be certain in life: death, taxes and New York Red Bulls vs. FC Cincinnati matches delivering fireworks.

The Red Bulls' 2-1 win at the defending Supporters’ Shield champions on Saturday lifted Sandro Schwarz's side into the driver’s seat of the 2024 race. But don’t expect that to be something they’re celebrating this early.

When asked about taking control of the league and Eastern Conference tables, RBNY's new head coach shared: “To be honest, nothing.”

“It's more important that we have this performance and that we have also have confidence," the German boss continued. "We were also dominant in an away game in Cincinnati, against a top team and against a top coach. … It's good to get these results, but it’s only seven games into the regular season.”

Heading into Matchday 8's clash, the Red Bulls and Cincy were even at 5W-5L-5D in the MLS-era series record. Five of those matchups came in 2023, concluding with Cincinnati eliminating the Red Bulls from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and all sorts of drama in the aftermath.

Translation: To say these teams do not like each other would be an undersell.

Striker Dante Vanzeir got in on both Red Bulls goals on Saturday, setting up the first and knocking in the second. He also admitted beating Cincinnati carries a little extra oomph given the recent history.

“It was still a little bit in the back of our heads, I’d say. We know playing here, coming to Cincinnati, is always a hard game,” said the 25-year-old Belgian. “But we were prepared. And I think we had this extra motivation coming from last year.”

Qualifying for the postseason for a 15th-straight season is a tall task, especially with as many newcomers the Red Bulls have top-to-bottom.

Yet the new Supporters’ Shield leaders have endured a gauntlet to open the season and passed serious tests. Through the first seven matches, they’ve faced six sides that qualified for the playoffs in 2023, plus star-studded Inter Miami CF.

Sweet silence

It’s a rare position of power to silence an away crowd, but that’s what former Cincy midfielder Frankie Amaya did on Saturday. And any observer who sensed there was a little something extra in his celebration would be right.

Amaya, Cincinnati’s first-ever SuperDraft selection (2019), has had something of a contentious relationship with Cincinnati supporters since he left for RBNY in 2021 – and the Cincy faithful let him know it every time he touches the ball in their city.

“I think we have no relationship anymore," said Amaya. “I think it started off with me. I was in the wrong and I can see why they react like that.”

The running meme is Amaya never sent a “Thank You” message to the fans when he left Cincinnati for the Red Bulls early in the 2021 season. That day count is up over 1,000 days.

And it’s a message they probably never will receive. Saturday’s goal was Amaya’s second at TQL Stadium as a Red Bull player.

“I really don’t care what they say at this point," said the now-veteran. "… I’m here to do one thing and that’s win the game with my team.”

Amaya and the Red Bulls' next test comes against Chicago Fire FC at Red Bull Arena next Saturday (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).