The former Leeds United duo combined to help Jesse Marsch's men record a 1-0 home win over the Chicago Fire.
The New York Red Bulls managed to eke out a narrow 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night thanks largely to a couple of former Leeds United players.
After struggling to break down a resolute Chicago defence, the Red Bulls found the breakthrough just before the hour mark when Lloyd Sam received a backheel pass from Bradley Wright-Phillips and squared the ball into the box for his ex-Leeds teammate Mike Grella to provide the finish.
It was Grella’s fourth goal in 12 MLS appearances this season and the American winger was quick to praise Sam and Wright-Phillips at the final whistle for helping create his game-winner.
“I’m not sure who picked it off, but Brad did excellent to hold it up and then get it to Lloydy, and then Lloydy did really great to find me at the far post unmarked,” the Red Bulls attacker told the club’s official website. “It was a tough matchup for us because we knew they were going to sit back and try to hit us on the counter.
“They were trying to give us a sucker punch, and that’s something we haven’t dealt well with in the past. It was sort of a must-win game for us, so it was difficult night but we came through on top and I’m very pleased for the boys.”
Sam, who played with Grella at Leeds between 2010 and 2011 before they were reunited in New York last season, added: “It’s good to see that Brad was ready to pick up the ball that was played short. It seemed like that’s how a goal would come from today, the way they were kind of stifling us and making it difficult, so it would have to maybe come from one of their errors.
“We’ll take that because sometimes we have games where we’ll end up losing the game like that and playing better. I don’t feel we played that well but it’s great to see us grind out the 1-nil win.”
After winning the Supporters’ Shield title last season, the Red Bulls have endured a slow start to the 2016 campaign, having taken just 13 points from their opening 12 games following four wins, one draw and a league-high seven defeats.
They still sit fifth in the Eastern Conference ahead of Saturday’s Hudson River Derby at New York City FC, but it remains to be seen whether Grella will feature on the afternoon after being forced off 17 minutes before the end of the Chicago clash with hamstring tightness.
“Yeah, so Mike just felt some hamstring tightness,” head coach Jesse Marsch told newyorkredbulls.com after the win. “I think he did a wise thing. He said he didn't feel a pull, it just felt tight. So it could be anything from a cramp to a small little pull.
“So we'll be hopeful that it's in the cramp category and that we can put him recuperated and recovered and ready to go for Saturday. But we'll have to just wait and see.”