Henry Watch – New York Red Bulls 3 Columbus Crew 1

September 15th  2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. COLUMBUS CREW (H) @Red Bull Arena.

TEAMS

NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2

Gaudette; Lade, Conde, Holgersson, Pearce; Marquez, Cahill, Solli, McCarty; Henry, Cooper.

COLUMBUS CREW – 4-2-3-1

Gruenebaum; Miranda, Williams, Marshall, James; Tchani, O’Rourke; Duka, Gaven, Mirosevic; Arrieta.

PREAMBLE

New York remain unbeaten since our last instalment of Henry Watch chronicled the 2-0 win over Houston.  The Red Bulls came from behind to register a 3-2 win over Portland before notching successive draws away to Sporting KC and DC United. Whilst the performances lacked sparkle they will have been happy to break a streak of three away defeats.

As the race for the playoffs reaches the final stretch, every game is significant. Going into this encounter New York sat third, behind Sporting and Chicago Fire, a win was vital in order to keep pace at the top and fend off the challenge from Houston, currently in the 4th playoff spot.

The dreaded international break also interrupted events across the pond, but the pause in proceedings may have worked in Henry’s favour. Despite still getting amongst the assists Henry had failed to score in his last five competitive matches and appeared to be tiring. A break of 16 days between matches allowed the Red Bulls captain to work on the training ground and rediscover his edge.

Another player who benefitted from the extended lay off was Rafa Marquez. The Mexican has been plagued by injuries this season and used the break to ensure as complete a rehabilitation as possible. Marquez slotted straight back into the team, partnering Cahill in a diamond midfield. Dax McCarty, who has excelled as New York’s midfield enforcer, was pushed to the right of midfield where he would be expected to tuck in and add strength in the centre.

Columbus arrive at Red Bull Arena on the cusp of a playoff spot. A win here coupled with anything less for DC would see them jump into fifth spot although they would have to rely heavily on keeper Andy Gruenebaum who currently leads the league in saves. Elsewhere in the Columbus squad is Federico Higuain, older brother of Real Madrid’s Gonzalo. Signing the siblings of Galactico’s seems to be catching as New York recently announced the arrival of Digao, younger brother of Kaka.

HIGHLIGHTS

New York’s habit of packing plenty into the early minutes continued here although it was the visitors who grabbed the early advantage on this occasion. Conor Lade didn’t get tight enough to Arrieta who was able to pick out Mirosevic for a simple finish. 0-1 to Columbus after just three minutes.

It didn’t take New York long to reply as their designated players combined to restore parity.

GOAL – On 9 minutes Rafa Marquez picked up the ball and drilled it perfectly onto Henry’s right boot from 40 yards away. Henry only needed one touch to tee up a cool left foot finish  and drag the Red Bulls back into the game. 1-1.

From here on New York racked up a host of good chances. Cooper, Marquez and Cahill all had efforts repelled by a stretched Columbus defence. The feeling that this wasn’t going to be the Red Bulls day grew as Gruenebaum denied Henry from 12 yards.

The pressure continued to mount and eventually the all important third goal arrived from the uncommon route of Dax McCarty’s head. Henry floated the ball into the box and it was the 5’9” McCarty who rose highest to glance his header into the top corner. 2-1.

The result was eventually secured with a moment of characteristic genius from the foot of Henry.

GOAL – In stoppage time Henry trotted out to deliver a corner. Many would have expected the usual FA Cup Final 2003 routine whereby Henry would run the clock down out of harms way. As usual Henry had different ideas. Spotting the keeper off the line he bent the ball expertly into the far corner and over the head of Gruenebaum. As Henry wheeled away in typically demonstrative fashion he made it clear that he’d seen the poorly placed keeper and exploited it ruthlessly.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE

Henry was buzzing in this game, his two goals and assist saw him awarded the MLS Player of the Week title for the fourth time this season. Two goals here see him up to fourth in the scoring charts on 13 goals.

Henry appeared rejuvenated, just at the right time as New York now have just six more matches in the regular season.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR RBNY?

They will be encouraged to finally have something close to a full squad and pleased that there appeared to be a balance to the side. Marquez can be a divisive figure and it was perhaps slightly unfair to ask McCarty to step aside for his return however, his range of passing dovetails so well with Henry that it would be a questionable decision if Backe were to overlook that.

Next up is Sporting Kansas City in one of the most important matches of the season to date. Sporting currently lead the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of New York in third. A win on Wednesday night would see New York back at the top of the conference, at least until the weekend. A battling 1-1 away draw at the end of August bodes well. New York remain unbeaten at home and will go into this pivotal tie in confident mood.

 NEXT FIXTURE

September 19  2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (H) @Red Bull Arena.