Henry Watch – DC United 4 New York Red Bulls 1
April 22 2012 – MLS Regular Season
Vs. DC United (A) @RFK Stadium
NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2
Meara, Solli, Lade, Holgersson, Keel, Palsson, McCarty, Richards, Ballouchy, Henry, Cooper.
COLUMBUS CREW – 4-4-2
Willis, Russell, McDonald, Dudar, Woolard, Cruz, Kitchen, De Rosario, DeLeon, Maicon Santos, Pontius
After twice surrendering the lead against San Jose last week New York made the relatively short trip to Washington to take on Eastern Conference rivals DC United. Both sides entered this game unbeaten since defeats in the first two games of the season .
With Thierry Henry in excellent form there is no problem in front of goal, the concerns are with stability at the other end. Wilman Conde is still missing whilst Rafa Marquez begun his three match suspension after events last week. To add to that Roy Miller was missing from left back and Teemu Tainio is still unavailable. Backe had no choice but to juggle his line up.
Stephen Keel continued in place of Conde whilst rookie defender Connor Lade made his MLS debut at left back. In midfield Victor Palsson provided the midfield anchor and Ballouchy maintained his place in favour of Joel Lindpere.
DC fielded a relatively stable side with 2011 MVP Dwayne De Rosario looking to break from midfield and find his first goal of the season. Up front Chris Pontius provided the goal threat off the back of a late winner in last week’s encounter with Montreal.
Earlier in the day Chris Wondolowski had netted his eighth of the season in a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake. That strike put him top of the charts and meant Henry and Cooper were both playing catch up on seven.
New York fell behind on eight minutes when Pontius dispossessed Henry just inside the New York half. As Pontius stole the ball Henry fell to the ground holding his face. There was no whistle and the DC man closed on the NY goal and drove a sweet strike past Meara. Replays showed that Henry had gone to ground rather too easily.
After a scrappy start New York began to get a bit more possession. On 25 Henry linked up with Cooper and fired a stinging effort into the hands of Willis. He had another effort deflected wide on 31. This brief flurry was the closest New York came to getting back into the game.
The rest of the half was about New York’s shambolic defending. DC doubled their lead on 32 when Maicon Santos managed to stumble through three weak challenges and deliver into the box. Connor Lade wasn’t quick enough to clear and, although he appeared to get a shove in the back, Pontius stole in to get his second of the game.
DC weren’t satisfied and exploited yet more disarray in the Red Bulls defence. As the ball arrived on the edge of the area De Leon was quickest to react and claimed the third of the game via a deflection off Holgersson.
Whilst New York had started badly DC never looked dominant enough to expect a 3-0 lead. The harsh truth is that the makeshift defensive unit crumbled under the slightest pressure.
At half time Backe moved to replace the floundering Stephen Keel, replacing him with debutant Tyler Ruthven. Mehdi Ballouchy was also swapped for Joel Lindpere. In truth, anyone but Henry or McCarty would have deserved the hook at half time.
The changes made little difference as DC went on to put the rudderless New York defence under more pressure. A series of blocks, poor finishes and saves from Meara meant the 3-0 deficit was only added to once more on 69’ when Pontius completed his hat-trick. 4-0 with 20 minutes left, this salvage project was beyond even Thierry Henry.
Despite the humiliation of losing to bitter rivals Henry was able to salvage some personal pride.
GOAL – On 72 minutes Henry claimed a consolation goal by neatly converting a free kick from 25 yards out. McCarty had been fouled in Henry’s favourite position, to the left of the penalty box, and the finish was made to look deceptively easy. It made no difference to the game, as Henry’s resigned non-celebration showed, but it did haul him level at the top of the scoring charts with eight for the season.
Henry has now scored or assisted 13 of New York’s 17 goals in 2012. Proof, if it were needed, of his importance to this team. He will perhaps look back at his lapse that allowed Pontius to steal the ball to open the scoring but aside from that, there was little Henry could do to alter this result.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NYRB?
New York slip down to third in the Eastern Conference with 10 points, swapping places with DC who now have 12. Both sides trail in the wake of Sporting Kansas City who have amassed 21 points from 24 available.
The concern for New York will be that, despite an ability to score goals, they are all at sea in defence. Conde was bought in to provide stability and, to be fair, delivered that when he played but ongoing concerns about fitness mean he is off the radar at present.
The issue of Rafa Marquez also casts a shadow. Whilst the Mexican’s performances this term have improved on 2011 his disciplinary record suggests he too can’t be regarded as part of a stable side. His continued indiscretions led some to suggest he will be traded at the first available opportunity.
April 28 2012 – MLS Regular Season
Vs. New England Revolution (H) @Red Bull Arena