Mike Grella could not prevent the New York Red Bulls from falling to a 2-1 defeat to the New England Revolution on Wednesday night but the in-form playmaker still managed to leave his mark on the game.
After scoring in Friday’s 3-2 home win over the Chicago Fire, the 28-year-old American added another goal to his collection at New England, as he cancelled out Diego Fagundez’s second-minute opener with a wonder strike from the edge of the box just four minutes later.
Revs midfielder Kelyn Rowe’s 65th-minute volley would ultimately see the hosts leapfrog their opponents into first-place in the Eastern Conference but, with the Red Bulls having two games in hand, Jesse Marsch’s side still look the likelier to claim top spot come the end of the regular-season.
Not only that but, even after losing both Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill in the off-season amid a controversial coaching change, a second-ever Supporters’ Shield title is not out of the question either for Marsch's men.
That is thanks in no small part to the contributions of winter signings like Grella, who himself has proved one of the surprise packages of the 2015 MLS season thanks to his highlight-reel skills and remarkable resurgence.
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After a forgettable five-year stint journeying across England and Denmark, as well as an equally uneventful spell with the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks last term, the former Leeds United forward was considering quitting the game in the winter for a job in insurance or real estate.
He opted to make one last effort to revive his career, though, and, after landing a deal with his hometown Red Bulls ahead of the season following a successful trial, has not looked back.
The Long Island-native has now scored eight times in 29 competitive appearances from the wing after his latest goal, while also recording eight assists, and there is even growing support for him to receive a first senior US international call-up while he continues to keep both Gonzalo Veron and Shaun Wright-Phillips out of the line-up.
He failed to make the preliminary roster for next month’s Confederations Cup play-off against Mexico but, if he keeps up his current form over the coming months – or helps guide the Red Bulls to a first-ever MLS Cup title, then head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will not be able to ignore him for much longer.