The former Leeds United youngster scored and set up another on Sunday night as his side beat Orlando City SC 3-2 at Red Bull Arena.
Former Leeds United forward Mike Grella delivered an influential performance for the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night as they came from behind to beat Orlando City SC 3-2 at home and snap a four-game losing streak.
Canadian strike Cyle Larin, last season’s Rookie of the Year, gave Orlando an early lead at Red Bull Arena, turning in a low cross from Rafael Ramos just three minutes into the match after taking advantage of some lax defending.
The 21-year-old was later controversially denied a penalty in the 63rd-minute after being brought down by compatriot Karl Ouimette just inside the area, before the Red Bulls came back in storming fashion.
Two minutes later, Grella grabbed the equaliser for Jesse Marsch’s men, latching onto a Sacha Kljestan pass on the left-hand side of the box following a well-worked team move before firing past Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik for his second goal of the season.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, who earlier had a potential equaliser correctly ruled out for offside in the first half, then put the Red Bulls in front in the 69th-minute after poking home Grella’s cross, before adding his second with 15 minutes left to make it three goals in the space of 10 minutes for the hosts.
Orlando pulled one back six minutes from time when Ouimette headed into his own net to set up a tense finish, but New York managed to hold on to claim just their second win of the campaign.
Grella unsurprisingly drew plaudits from fans and the media after the match for his key role in the comeback, but the Long Island native was quick to deflect praise onto his teammates when speaking to the club’s official website at the final whistle.
Asked whether this was his best performance of the season so far, the former US Under-20 international told newyorkredbulls.com: “Yeah, maybe. Yeah, I'd have to go back and check on the game again, but for sure, we had life again this game and we had belief this game.
“And, you know, when my goal went in you just had a feeling that for sure we're going to win this game. And the front four played fantastic - so did the whole team. We all pulled together - we defended together, we attached together. Proud of all the guys.”
Grella, 29, originally joined the Red Bulls in February 2015 after enjoying a successful trial and went on to make 29 regular season appearances on the wing during his debut campaign in MLS, recording nine goals and seven assists in the process to help his hometown club win the Supporters’ Shield title.
The former Duke University star, who had been considering retirement only a few months before his trial, also earned a nomination for the league’s Newcomer of the Year award and has even received support for a first senior international call-up.
That talk has cooled somewhat over recent weeks due to New York’s slow start, with the club taking just six points from their opening eight games of 2016, but it will not be long before the “#Grella4USMNT” campaign resurfaces if he produces a few more performances like the one against Orlando going forward.