Henry Watch – New York Red Bulls 1 Chicago Fire 0
July 18th 2012 – MLS Regular Season
Vs. CHICAGO FIRE (A) @Red Bull Arena.
NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2
Gaudette; Barklage, Miller, Conde, Holgersson; McCarty, Palsson, Lindpere, Ballouchy; Henry, Le Toux.
CHICAGO FIRE – 4-2-3-1
Johnson; Gargan, Segares, Anibaba, Berry; Pardo, Pause; Rolfe, Alex, Pappa; Oduro.
Following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Seattle there was no time for Red Bulls to regroup. The next challenger up at Red Bull Arena were Chicago Fire, the second of three visitors in seven days.
The major talking point post Sunday was the experimental formation employed by Hans Backe. Against Chicago he chose to return to the tried and trusted 4-4-2, preferring Le Toux to Kenny Cooper. Kenny Cooper might feel aggrieved by his relegation from the first team, however with so many games in quick succession it perhaps made sense to rotate the hit man with the comparatively fresh Le Toux.
4-4-2 suits the players , not least Henry. The 4-3-3 required Henry to probe from deep but he has been far more effective when deployed up top and allowed to roam.
Chicago arrived in New York knowing that a win would propel them above their opponents and DC United into second place in the Eastern Conference. Chicago’s main threat was likely to come from Guatemalan international Marco Pappa. After a recent goal against the US National team the tricky wide man attracted the attention of a number of clubs, most notably Premier League survivors Wigan Athletic.
The game was being played at the unusual hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon New York time and as such the 100 degree heat in the stadium was a major factor. The home side dominated possession whilst Chicago were seemingly happy to sit deep and avoid over exertion.
The best chances fell to New York and specifically Le Toux. His first was the result of a raking pass from Henry. Dropping deep to help instigate a counter Henry picked out Le Toux who took the ball down and looked to dink over the keeper. His connection was too heavy and the ball sailed safely over the bar.
Good work from Brandon Barklage saw more chances fall the way of Le Toux but poor finishing meant the game was level at the break.
New York’s dominance continued in the second half and Henry was first to make an effort on goal. Barklage, advanced into a wing back position, floated towards the penalty spot where Henry rose to flick his header over the bar.
Apart from a failed penalty claim on 55 there was little else to report until Thierry delivered the goods for the Red Bulls.
GOAL – On 71 minutes Thierry Henry received a cross field ball from Le Toux. Taking it down on his chest he set it up to strike from an almost Van Basten-esque angle. Henry’s left footed half volley flew over the helpless keeper and in off the post. A contender for goal of the season for sure and, largely thanks to injury, his first goal since the end of April.
The Red Bulls managed to see off a late charge from Chicago, new keeper Bill Gaudette impressing in only his second game since arriving from LA.
The change in formation seemed to suit New York as they controlled possession and created the majority of chances. Henry seemed to be closer to his early season form, even if the heat took a toll. His goal was impressive and goes some way to proving the theory, as LA’s performance on Sunday also suggested, that Designated Players are often the match winning difference in this league.
An interesting note after the game was that Henry, seen gesturing to the bench in the second half, had asked for Connor Lade to come on. It was Lade’s industry that led to Le Toux’s assist for Henry. The Frenchman was fulsome in his praise of the promising young rookie.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR RBNY?
Now up to second in the East, one point behind Sporting Kansas City and level on games. They are now two points clear of fierce rivals DC United however RBNY have played one more game. A tough run continues on Saturday evening as Philadelphia Union arrive in New York. The question is whether Backe continues with Henry and Le Toux or if he recalls Cooper, possibly to relieve Henry; three games in a week may be beyond him given his recent return from injury.
Fans of stats in Football might be interested in this article which looks to give added meaning to pass completion statistics. Some interesting points are made regarding the difficulty of passes in a given game situation. Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty comes out on top which is just praise for a player who has been excellent but largely unheralded so far this season.
July 21st 2012 – MLS Regular Season
Vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (A) @Red Bull Arena.