Mike Grella Hits Stride in Red Bulls Victory

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RUSS McKENZIE

HARRISON, N.J. – Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch isn’t worried about Mike Grella. And why should he be? By now, the Glen Cove native has proven himself as a key cog and leader within the Red Bulls construct, and he proved his place again with a brace against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night.

“I don’t want to take credit for Mike, because I think Mike’s just gotten himself going as the season’s gone on and he’s gotten sharper and sharper and more confident. The thing with Mike is always getting the balance right of when to play simple and when to do special things, and clearly, when he gets that balance right, he’s very difficult to deal with.”

Mike Grella put in a brilliant and opportunistic performance against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night, playing a shifty, dangerous match — and always finding himself in the right place at the right time.

“My goal is when I get on the ball in between the lines is to find Brad [Wright-Phillips], Lloyd [Sam] and Mike,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said after the match. “Brad is always making space for himself to be on the run. Mike is a lot better when I can get the ball to his feet and he can take guys one-on-one. Tonight, he put himself in good spots to score goals, but on the ball, he was always dangerous.”

Kljestan, of course, currently leads Major League Soccer with 10 assists. Although he didn’t collect an assist on either Grella goal, it was Sacha’s curling shot off the post that landed in Grella’s lap to open the scoring in the 18′. Again, the Glen Cove native was in the right place at the right time.

“Great strike from Sacha and you know,” Grella said. “I’ve scored a few of those in my career where the ball just bounces around in the box, so of course I’m thinking that’s coming off the post and coming right to me, just in case it does, and it did and I was prepared for it and it was a simple finish.”

While the winger started 2016 slowly, Grella has amassed five goals, only three off his 2015 total (8). Regardless of the slow start, his coach never lost faith.

“I know these guys. I know what they are about. I watch them every day. They are great men. They are very good players. They give everything they have and it was just a matter of like redefining certain things and really now, you know, getting them going to the point where now when they step on the field, they are clear and they are confident,” Marsch said. “So clearly when you look at Mike right now, that’s the case.”

Grella, who found a home with the Red Bulls after his European journeys brought him back Stateside, credits that unwavering confidence for his quality of play.

“Yeah it’s huge,” he said. “[Marsch} has been responsible for a huge part of my success. Jesse and the whole entire coaching staff, the family, give me a lot of confidence to go out on the field and play the way…  I feel comfortable, I feel free out on the field and I’m very happy.”