HENRY WATCH – New York Red Bulls 4 Colorado Rapids 1
March 25 2012 – MLS Regular Season
VS Colorado Rapids (H) @Red Bull Arena
NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2
Meara, Solli, Miller, Holgersson, Conde, Marquez, McCarty, Richards, Lindpere, Henry, Cooper.
COLORADO RAPIDS – 4-3-3
Pickens, Kimura, Zapata, Wynne, Moor, LaBauex, Thompson, Mullan, Castrillon, Cascio, Cummings.
After a shaky start to the MLS season, New York Red Bulls faced Colorado Rapids in their first home match of the campaign. Successive defeats on the road, to Dallas and Real Salt Lake, meant that an expectant crowd of New Yorker’s demanded a reaction.
The Rapids, owned by Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, were MLS Cup winners as recently as 2010 and have made a good start this season, winning their first two fixtures. Despite playing away from home against one of the bigger names in MLS Colorado still favoured their attacking 4-3-3 formation, with Omar Cummings leading the line supported by the impressive rookie Tony Cascio.
New York looked to add some solidity here with the introduction of close season signing Wilman Conde at Centre Half and the return of Rafael Marquez in Midfield. The former was bought in to rebuild a shaky defence further exposed by Tim Ream’s departure to Bolton Wanderers, whilst Marquez returned from a three game suspension for the part he played in the brawl against the Galaxy at the end of last season.
New York were without Luke Rodgers who is still awaiting news on his visa whilst Juan Agudelo is missing with ligament damage sustained this week whilst playing for the US U23 squad, currently preparing for the Olympics.
It was well documented last week that Thierry Henry made a flying visit to see Fabrice Muamba in the London Chest Hospital. The good will continued here with the whole Red Bull’s starting XI emerging from the tunnel wearing t-shirts which carried a message of support for Henry’s recovering former team mate.
New York flew out of the traps. The first couple of minutes saw the ball whipped into the box on a couple of occasions. It wasn’t long before NYRB finally took the lead.
GOAL – In the third minute Henry intercepted a soft back pass from Ross LaBauex and found himself one on one with Drew Moor. As the exposed defence retreated Henry drove into the box and fired a low shot past Pickens and into the near corner. Henry’s first of the season and only New York’s second.
NYRB continued to press high up the pitch and the pressure continued to tell on their opponents. Henry had roamed into a deeper position, took the ball quickly from Marquez and fed Kenny Cooper in the inside right channel. The powerful striker looked to have carried the ball too far but managed to pull his shot across the keeper and into the far corner. New York 2 Colorado 0.
The first half continued with New York looking to play at a high tempo. Henry continued to drop into a deeper role at times but his forays were more welcome than in previous weeks. An early trend from the first two games was the frustration of the Frenchman, leading him to go looking for the ball to spark some creativity. Here, the whole side looked sharper and there was an outlet up top in Cooper. Henry’s roaming was more of a luxury this week and was supported by an improved performance across the team.
The second period started almost as brightly as the first. Joel Lindpere played Henry in over the top on 51’ but his shot was well covered at the near post.
GOAL – On 54’ Henry doubled his account for the season and put New York into a well deserved 3-0 lead. A quick free kick from the commanding debutant Conde sent Henry beyond the inexplicably high Colorado defence. He steadied with his left foot before opening his body and whipping the ball right footed beyond the keeper and into the far corner. It was vintage Henry; the type of finish that was commonplace at Highbury.
Henry was in buoyant mood. On 58’ one of his ventures into midfield almost paid off again. A fabulous curling ball behind the left back sent Dane Richards free but his stinging effort was denied at the near post.
Despite a comfortable afternoon for the home side Henry wasn’t content to let the last half hour drift by. When Richards was bundled over just outside the Colorado area the referee gave nothing. Colorado broke leading to Rafa Marquez cynically checking his opponent and taking a yellow card.
Henry sprinted fully 50 yards to remonstrate with the official. Neutrals will say it was uncalled for but I would say it’s evidence of Henry’s hunger.
Colorado finally forced a consolation in the 77th. Marquez had looked imperious in midfield, his economy in possession helping launch countless New York moves however he was ponderous here and was hustled off the ball by Omar Cummings. The Jamaican international advanced on the box and floated a sweet right footed effort over Meara and into the top corner.
In the 89th minute the game was put to bed with a second from Cooper. Costa Rican full back Roy Miller carried the ball into the box and played the ball across the face of goal. Cooper’s determination put him in front of his marker and he managed to bundle the ball home for his third of the season.
On 93’ Henry had his last chance to claim the match ball. Played in by Miller he twisted and turned moving the ball back and forth before teeing himself up on his left. His placed effort was tame and easily stopped by Pickens. The frustration at missing a gilt edged opportunity was obvious.
This was by far New York’s best performance of the season. The defensive stability added by Conde was an obvious benefit whilst Marquez bossed the midfield. This provided a platform for other players to build on and allowed Henry the luxury to drift around the pitch at choice moments, rather than being forced to go looking for the ball to conjure something. Henry notched twice and had further chances to increase his haul. He’s looking sharp for Red Bulls and will hope the team can continue this improvement.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NYRB?
A third successive defeat would have been disastrous for one of the league’s biggest names so a win was more than welcome. The performance will have encouraged Hans Backe who will now believe he has a squad capable of growing into the season. If New York can keep these players fit – and free from suspension in Marquez’s case – they will have a decent chance of making the playoffs at the very least. This win alone brings New York up to 4th in the Eastern Conference.
March 31 2012 – MLS Regular Season
Vs. Montreal Impact (H) @Red Bull Arena