Henry Watch – New York Red Bulls 2 San Jose Earthquakes 2

After three wins on the bounce recovered a shaky start to the 2012 season, New York headed into a home game with San Jose Earthquakes hoping to add to the W column.

The game was billed as a shootout between MLS’ top scorers – going into the game Henry led the charts with seven whilst his partner, Kenny Cooper tied San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski on six a piece.

Whilst the game provided goal mouth action it also delivered its share of controversial moments.

In keeping with recent weeks New York took the lead early on. Henry dropped off between defence and midfield and flicked a perfectly weighted ball behind the static San Jose back four. Cooper looked almost surprised at the absence of an offside flag but wasted no time in notching his seventh of the season.

With another early lead it seemed that the Red Bulls might stroll to a comfortable victory. This wasn’t to be as defensive frailties continue to haunt them. Influential Colombian defender Wilman Conde was out and his experience was clearly missed. The Red Bulls were caught too high and too square allowing the San Jose forwards to play through them and create a simple tap in for Rafael Baca to equalise.

New York wasted no time in regaining the lead. Dane Richards, dangerous throughout the first half, took control of a loose ball in midfield and carried it deep into San Jose territory. His cross was met by Dax McCarty who struck the ball decisively beyond Busch.

The lead didn’t last and within 15 minutes Wondolowski took advantage of some poor New York defending. The ball founds its way to the back post and attracted three New York defenders like moths to a flame. A simple flick back to the edge of the six yard box bypassed the ball-watching defence allowing a simple header to draw San Jose level.

Henry had been quiet in the first half apart from his assist. The only other real moment of note was a skirmish with Wondolowski shortly before the second San Jose equaliser. The Ameircan hitman objected to a tackle from Henry and wagged a finger in the Frenchman’s face. Henry seems to attract moments like this in almost every match.

Firstly, Henry is a competitor and despite accusations that he’s in semi-retirement in the Big Apple he still looks desperate to win. He chases and hassles, berates the referee and his team mates. His personality leaves a mark on every game. Team mates have talked of how encouraging it is to play with someone who demands such high standards whilst it could be argued that opponents see him as a target. Wondolowski would no doubt have been keen to level the goal scoring charts and show that big name Designated Players would not have it all their own way.

The minor disagreement Henry found himself in was nothing compared to what embroiled Rafa Marquez, his former Barca team mate. Whilst defending a corner Marquez held on to Shea Salinas and dragged him to the ground. It should have been a penalty but nothing was given. As the two players fell Marquez appeared to kick Salinas with the collision resulting in a broken collarbone for the San Jose Midfielder.

It’s interesting to contrast the reaction in the States and what might have been anticipated in the Premier League. Wrestling at set-pieces is commonplace in England and very rarely draws a penalty. The fact that Marquez dragged his man to the ground should have guaranteed the spot kick but the end result of a broken bone was, by my reckoning, purely accidental.

All week coverage has centred around how long Marquez would be banned for. In England, with officials generally unwilling to punish anything retrospectively, I imagine he’d have got away without sanction. Things are different in MLS and Marquez has since been banned for three games and will miss matches against DC United, New England Revolution and LA Galaxy, whom he was sent off against last season for instigating a mass brawl. Marquez certainly has previous and I can’t help but think his reputation has coloured the disciplinary panel’s judgement.

The second half provided little of note from a Footballing perspective – Henry only managed one serious effort – but the controversy wasn’t over. There were three further yellow cards, the worst of which was a reckless lunge from Marvin Chavez on Red Bulls left back Roy Miller. Chavez too has been retrospectively punished and will sit out a one match suspension.

MLS officials are clear that foul play will be punished regardless of the action the referee does or doesn’t take during the match. It seems unusual to fans of the Premier League and it’s not without its problems but one has to admire the attempts to stamp out dangerous play.

New York now head into a difficult away game against DC United. Both teams lost their fist two but remain unbeaten since. The Red Bulls don’t favour road trips and will need to put in a solid performance with a reshuffled team. Conde and Miller are both likely to be missing from the defence whilst Marquez is suspended and Tainio still on crutches.

Backe has some interesting decisions to make in order to field a solid unit that can keep 2011 MVP Dwayne De Rosario at bay. Henry and Cooper are likely to need to hit their stride again in what could well be another high scoring encounter.