HARRISON, N.J. – Shortly after setting up his team's game-tying goal, New York Red Bulls midfielder Sal Zizzo was headed to the hospital for the birth of his first child, this after what was arguably his best match of the season.
Sometime on Sunday evening or Monday morning, Destiny Moniz, the model/actress wife of Zizzo, will be induced for labor to bring daughter Capri into the world. Moniz was at Red Bull Arena on Sunday night to watch her husband's team earn a 1-1 result against defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy. She sat in the stands and watched the match and was waiting for Zizzo afterwards in the adjacent "family room" for the trip to the hospital.
In what was his first start in almost a month, Zizzo produced one of his best performances of the season. He went a solid 75 minutes that included several daring displays on the ball along with a fair amount of flair, rewarding the confidence placed in him by head coach Jesse Marsch.
In short, he looked nothing like someone distracted by, just hours away, the birth of his firstborn.
“For me what I'm doing all week is just making sure I'm fresh. I know they think highly of me and I'll be ready for any kind of chance to start. He gave me a call,” Zizzo told Metro about Marsch's decision to give him the start. “I think I've always kind of been the type of player that likes to go at guys. As I've gotten older I've gotten better at coming inside and combining more. Going out there today, mentally, I was trying to be a little more dangerous and not try to always make the easy pass, to make the hard pass and drive with the ball a little bit.”
Zizzo was inserted into the starting lineup, according to Marsch, for his one-on-one ability and he produced that several times in the match, in particular in the first half. Zizzo got free in the 58th minute, sending in a ball from the left side of the penalty area that ping-ponged and eventually hit off the head of central midfielder Felipe Martins for the game's equalizer. He didn't get an assist for the play but it was his ingenuity, his guile that got the Red Bulls a share of the points.
In the left midfield platoon for the Red Bulls this year, Zizzo seemed over the past few weeks to fall behind Mike Grella, who has two goals in his last three appearances. Grella came into Sunday's match in the 67th minute, replacing not Zizzo but Lloyd Sam on the right wing. Zizzo would leave the field eight minutes later to solid applause from the crowd.
After the match, Grella came up to Zizzo while he was changing in the locker room. He held out his hand, wishing Zizzo good luck with the delivery of his firstborn. There's a common respect the two players have for each other, even as they compete for time as a starter.
“We liked the match-up of Sal versus [Greg] Gargan. That helped us get that goal,” Marsch said said after the match. “Sal has been very good in training, he's been very good when he's played for us. He's dynamic and he's aggressive.”
Defensively it was also a day of hard work for Zizzo. He contributed to the press game and ran hard for his 75 minutes in Sunday's match. Now he's running to the hospital.
“I just hope everything is OK and she's well,” Zizzo said. “That's the most important thing here. We could have done it on Friday night but the decision was made for today. I'm really excited.”