HENRY WATCH – Columbus Crew 1 New York Red Bulls 4

April 7 2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. Columbus Crew (A) @Crew Stadium

TEAMS

NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2

Meara, Solli, Miller, Holgersson, Keel, Marquez, McCarty, Richards, Ballouchy, Henry, Cooper.

COLUMBUS CREW – 4-4-2

Gruenebaum, Miranda, Francis, Gehrig, Marshall, Urso, Gaven, Anor, Mirosevic, Vargas, Renteria.

PREAMBLE

New York visited Columbus aiming to extend their recent good form. After two defeats on the road to open the season the goals of Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper had fired the Red Bulls back into contention.

The Crew had started the 2012 MLS campaign similarly to New York, losing their first game but recovering to beat Canadian outfits Montreal Impact and Toronto.

New York made two changes from last weeks victory over Montreal. Influential Colombian defender Wilman Conde was replaced by Stephen Keel whilst Mehdi Ballouchy came into midfield in place of Joel Lindpere.

HIGHLIGHTS

It took just three minutes for New York to get off the mark. Predictably it was the partnership of Cooper and Henry that made the breakthrough. McCarty won a loose ball in midfield and found Cooper . The tall striker played the ball to Henry, who was just inside the Crew half, before making for the box. Henry bided his time and dropped the ball onto the front man’s chest. Cooper took it down well, found himself in plenty of space and turned to finish emphatically. Another goal for Cooper and another assist for Henry.

Just 10 minutes later New York doubled their lead. Dane Richards carried the ball towards the penalty area. His shot was closed down but deflected high and into the path of Cooper. The big man climbed to head the ball beyond Gruenebaum. At first it looked like a scruffy goal but on second viewing you have to credit Cooper for a controlled header which wrong footed the keeper.

New York were in total control with the two goal cushion. The subtle change in formation was making an important difference too. Columbus play a narrow diamond midfield so the inclusion of Ballouchy on the left, who drifted inside to support McCarty, counteracted this. It also allowed Henry to pull wide as he so often did for Arsenal.

His first effort came from that wing position. Taking the ball on the edge of the box in the inside left channel Henry looked to open his body and curl into the far post. His first attempt was blocked but it didn’t take long for the Frenchman to get it right.

GOAL – The fluid movement of Ballouchy, Miller and Henry combined to put the in form front man into his favourite position. Miller’s through ball found Henry on the shoulder of the defender. From there the finish was never in doubt. There are few more ominous sights in the game than Thierry Henry in this position.

Early in the second half Henry had a good chance to double his tally for the day. Richards broke forward, as he’d done to good effect all afternoon, passed inside to McCarty who flipped the ball over the defence and onto Henry’s chest. Henry collected the ball and climbed to poke a volley into the arms of the keeper. You would’ve expected him to do better.

With New York enjoying the comfort of a three goal lead they took their foot off the gas and allowed Columbus to build up a head of steam. The home side managed a few good chances but a combination of woeful finishing and the good form of rookie keeper Ryan Meara kept them out.

The clean sheet wouldn’t last though as Columbus took advantage of some sloppy defending from an 89th minute corner. The ball sailed to the back post where Chad Marshall was able to nod home unchallenged.

There wasn’t much time left and the result was never in doubt but Thierry wasn’t yet finished. He attempted to score direct from a free kick after Danny Gruenebaum had handled outside his box however that attempt was deflected over the top. New York carried on going and the finishing touch was just round the corner.

GOAL – Substitute Joel Lindpere twisted and turned on the left wing, got away from his man and clipped a neat cross to Henry who had pulled off of the defence. He controlled on his chest and slammed home his seventh of the season with the minimum of fuss. 4-1 NYRB.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE

New York are beginning to show the type of form they were expected to produce at the start of the season. The loss of Luke Rodgers was thought to be disruptive however the goals of Kenny Cooper are making the long drawn out visa issues seem like little more than a foot note.

New York were in complete control in the first half and that was primarily thanks to the tactics of Hans Backe. The employment of Ballouchy on the left, drifting inside to allow Henry free reign on the wing, caused Columbus problems they couldn’t solve.

As for Thierry, he’s bang in form. Seven goals in five and a pivotal creative role. His spell at Arsenal has helped him hit the ground running. Now his team mates are similarly fit New York are reaping the benefits.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NYRB?

Three wins in five and a first away win of the season. New York are now second in the Eastern Conference with nine points from 15, behind Sporting Kansas City who have made a perfect start. New York sit third on goal difference in the joint table.

As you might expect with one of the best strikers of all time leading the side New York are the league’s top scorers with 14 goals so far. If they, and Thierry, can maintain this form it could well be a fruitful season.

NEXT FIXTURE

April 14 2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. San Jose Earthquakes (H) @Red Bull Arena.

ELSEWHERE IN THE MLS…

LA Galaxy sit bottom of the Western Conference with just three points from four games. Last year’s MLS Cup winners are obviously feeling the effects of recruiting high profile mediocrity enthusiast, Robbie Keane.

In Arsenal related news, former Gooner Ryan Smith bagged two assists as Chivas USA collected their second win of the season on the road at Portland whilst Stan Kroenke’s Colorado Rapids dropped down the Western Conference after a 2-0 home defeat to Real Salt Lake.