The ex-Leeds United youngster's second-half strike helped inspire his side to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Dynamo.
Former Leeds United forward Mike Grella was among the goalscorers for the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night as they defeated Owen Coyle’s Houston Dynamo 4-3 in a thrilling contest at Red Bull Arena.
Sacha Kljestan opened the scoring for the Red Bulls in the 22nd-minute after collecting a loose ball in the box and firing home, but Houston striker Will Bruin answered back with two goals in quick succession to put the visitors in front four minutes before the break.
Grella pulled Jesse Marsch’s men level just after the hour, however, having come on in the 32nd-minute for the injured Gonzalo Veron, showing great hustle to get in front of David Horst’s clearance and deflect the ball into the back of the net for his first goal of the season.
Alex subsequently restored the Dynamo’s one-goal advantage only two minutes later with a smart finish past Luis Robles from the edge of the box, but fellow Brazilian Felipe Martins took the game into his own hands from there.
The deep-lying midfielder made it 3-3 12 minutes from the end with a curling 20-yard strike, before following that up with a fantastic free-kick soon after that nestled into the top right corner.
It proved enough to earn the Red Bulls their first win of the season after last weekend’s 3-0 loss at the Montreal Impact the preceding 2-0 home defeat to Toronto FC, and their fightback was all the more impressive give that Veron, Gideon Baah and Ronald Zubar all had to be substituted with injuries before the hour mark.
Felipe understandably stole most of the headlines for his two-goal display, but head coach Marsch was also quick to pick out Grella for praise at the final whistle.
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The 29-year-old American enjoyed a stellar debut season in MLS last year, recording nine goals and seven assists to secure a nomination for the Newcomer of the Year award, as his highlight-reel performances on the left wing helped the club win the Supporters’ Shield title and earned him the moniker "Grelladinho".
He has even gained support for a first senior international call-up – an amazing feat given he was considering retirement just 18 months ago – and despite starting among the substitutes this weekend, his impact off the bench left a big impression on his manager.
“Well, I thought that Mike got -- I thought Mike helped the game in the first half too,” Marsch told the Red Bulls’ official website after the win. “And he just, you know, that's one thing about Mike is Mike is a confident kid.
“So when he plays, and he starts getting touches on the ball and moving around in the game and wrong footing guys, he can, I think, really affect the game in big ways like we've seen.
“Yeah, I thought that now when Mike starts to come inside and really find the game, that leaves room for Connor [Lade] to be pushing up on the wing and there was little movements and Connor joining in late and creating some advantages there on that side, and I think that was a big part of us really tactically getting in the game.”
The Red Bulls now have a two-week break before facing Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution on Friday 1 April at Gillette Stadium, by which time their injury issues will have hopefully cleared up.