After a difficult month of June, the New York Red Bulls' poor form continued to plague them in July, as they dropped points against New York City FC, the Portland Timbers and the Philadelphia Union. However, they were able to turn things around at the end of the month with a decent run of form because of several strong individual performers.
Here are three Red Bulls who stood out last month:
Connor Lade, 26, Defenseman
When fullback Kemar Lawrence went down with an injury, there were questions as to who would fill his spot. Not only has Lade stepped up in the Jamaican international's place, but also he's been a stalwart on the back line in the midst of constant rotation plagued by injuries. His physical tackles and seemingly endless energy are a perfect fit for the club's high-pressure system.
Lade scored his first MLS goal in a 2-0 win over Orlando City on July 13. Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch praised the former academy player for being "the kind of guy that every coach loves to have" who will "do whatever it takes, fight for his teammates, and play any position."
Now in his fifth season with the Red Bulls, Lade has dealt with the peaks and valleys that come with being a professional athlete. From exploding onto the scene in his rookie season to earning his way back into the squad following years of being relegated to the bench, it appears he may be a long-term solution on the back line, especially after signing a multi-year contract extension in January. -- Brendan Joseph
Sacha Kljestan, 30, Midfielder
He may not win MLS MVP, but Kljestan is certainly the Red Bulls' most valuable player in 2016. The center midfielder produced three goals and two assists this July, as the Red Bulls went 2-1-3 this month. Kljestan, like the Red Bulls, started slow this month, but a late spurt against the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC finds him on this list.
Kljestan has five goals and 12 assists on the season, the latter which leads the league. He's added a new attacking dimension to his game and should be in contention for MLS MVP. Kljestan may not be the flashiest Red Bulls player, but he is certainly the Red Bulls biggest key for a potential playoff run. -- Aaron Bauer
Alex Muyl, 20, Midfielder
Muyl's ascension through the ranks continues. After earning a spot in the rotation, he's become the first choice winger following Lloyd Sam's trade. Muyl's hard work on defense and composure in possession has also kept designated player Gonzalo Veron on the bench. Expectations were high for the homegrown signing when he joined the team last winter, but it's safe to say that he's exceeded all of them.
The 20-year old academy alumnus was named to MLS Team of the Week after his impactful performance in a 4-1 win over New York City FC. The league website praised him as being "the vanguard of RBNY's high pressure" that "destroyed NYCFC's ability to build up."
Muyl doesn't have the offensive production of his predecessor with only one goal and three assists this season, but his defensive work enables the team to score goals. If he is able to become a true two-way winger by contributing more on the attack, then national team call-ups and a potential move to Europe could be in his future. -- Brendan Joseph