HENRY WATCH – New York Red Bulls 5 Montreal Impact 2

March 31 2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. Montreal Impact (H) @Red Bull Arena

TEAMS

NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2

Meara, Solli, Miller, Holgersson, Conde, Marquez, McCarty, Richards, Lindpere, Henry, Cooper.

MONTREAL IMPACT – 4-4-2

Ricketts, Valentin, Gardner, Ferrari, Wahl, Arnaud, Bernier, Martins, Mapp, Nyassi, Corradi.

PREAMBLE

After last week’s comfortable win over Colorado Rapids kick started their campaign, New York stayed at home for the visit of Montreal Impact. The Canadians are the latest MLS expansion team, joining at the start of this season.

It’s fair to say that Montreal’s induction into MLS hasn’t been easy. Their solitary point came on the second weekend when they hosted Chicago Fire in a game played in front of an impressive 58,000 fans.

Buoyed by a resounding 4-1 win, featuring a commanding debut from Wilman Conde – Hans Backe referred to his presence as “massive” – and braces from Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls would be expected to put in another comfortable performance this time out.

New York fielded the same team that started last week. Whilst Cooper and Henry seem to be forming a decent partnership up front it remains the only combination they can field. Juan Agudelo is likely to be sidelined for up to six weeks with ligament damage whilst Luke Rodgers, who partnered Henry for most of last season, was refused a visa at the end of last week. The fomer Notts County man has now signed with Lillestrom in Norway where he wasted no time in scoring on his debut this weekend.

Montreal handed a full debut to former Manchester City striker Bernado Corradi.

HIGHLIGHTS

The notable difference between the early season defeats and last week’s win was the pace at which New York started. This week they seemed to be back to their old ways with significantly more pressing and zip in their passing.

Henry’s first contribution was a scuffed volley on 10 minutes. The connection was poor and the ball bobbled by without asking Ricketts a question in the Montreal goal.

He was back in the action again five minutes later as Dane Richards aimed a good cross towards the Frenchman. As Henry went to jump he was pinned down by Valentin. The ball drifted by and out of danger with the referee choosing not to whistle for what replays later indicated was a clear penalty.

New York’s slow start was punished on 19 minutes when they failed to make a routine clearance. As the ball bobbled around the box, Markus Holgersson should have cleared but was left flat footed. Nyassi was quickest to react and fired Montreal’s second goal in MLs history. 0-1 to the visitors.

It wasn’t the same all action performance as last week but going behind saw New York begin to exert a bit more pressure.

GOAL – On 29 minutes NYRB were back on terms. Marquez floated in an inch perfect cross for Henry to nod home. He doesn’t score too many headers but given the opportunity he is still pretty deft with his head too.

The equaliser seemed to stir Henry who, as we’ve seen in every MLS fixtures so far this season, berated his team mates for poor service. Shortly after the goal Kenny Cooper tried to flip a ball over a defender for Henry to run on to. He wanted it to his feet and wasted no time in telling Cooper what he expected.

On 38 Montreal made a sloppy New York defence pay again. A run of the mill turn over in midfield saw Justin Mapp take the ball in the left wing position. With no obvious route behind he ran square across the face of the box and struck hard and low. His shot snuck into the near post and gave the visitors an unlikely 1-2 lead.

Moments after the restart Henry was involved again. Dropping deep he turned his marker in midfield and fed the overlapping Roy Miller. The Costa Rican full-back drove a tantalising ball across goal but Joel Lindpere couldn’t quite make the connection.

In first half injury time Thierry Henry was involved again. This time he threaded a ball into the box towards Dax McCarty only for Matteo Ferrari, who played eight times for Everton in the 05/06 season, to bring the industrious midfielder down. Ferrari clearly got some of the ball but he had to clear the man out to do so. It was a borderline decision but had it happened to Arsenal, I’d have wanted a penalty for it.

Kenny Cooper stepped up to despatch the penalty. It was his fourth goal in as many games this season and enough to suggest that New York won’t miss Luke Rodgers as much as we might have anticipated.

Hans Backe made one change at the break, withdrawing the injured Rafa Marquez and replacing him with former Sp*rs and Sunderland man Teemu Tainio.

New York were more direct and focused for the second half. Henry looked to capitalise on a hacked clearance but couldn’t quite feed Cooper on 47 minutes. He continued to look for ways to influence the game and stretched defenders.

New York’s greater application in the second period was eventually rewarded on 56 minutes when they were able to exploit some poor Montreal defending.

GOAL – Zarek Valentin failed to clear convincingly, only managing to ply the ball into the path of Dax McCarty who in turn fed Henry taking the ball with his back to goal. His first touch played the ball away from goal but opened up the space to spin and shoot into the bottom corner. 3-2

Red Bulls looked confident after they’d taken the lead. This was best shown by Henry’s nonchalant assist for the fourth goal. Jan Gunnar Solli burst into the Montreal box and fed Henry who coolly back-heeled for substitute Mehdi Ballouchy to convert. The goal was the Moroccan’s but the talking point was Henry’s casual assist.

As the game died down only the finishing touch remained.

GOAL – On 90 minutes Kenny Cooper shot from outside of the box. The shot should have been comfortably gathered by Rickett’s but it was spilt to the feet of Henry who arrived to flip a deft finish over the Jamaican and complete his first hat-trick in a New York shirt. 5-2 Red Bulls.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE

Despite the resounding score line, New York were nowhere near as good as last week. Fortunately for them Thierry was motivated and clinical in front of goal. There is a suggestion that Henry can look moody and occasional criticises team mates too openly however there is no denying his desire to be on the winning side.

The spell at Arsenal seems to have rejuvenated Henry and has undoubtedly allowed him to hit the ground running. It’s notable that he and New York collectively have looked better as the weeks have passed, players like Richards and McCarty are beginning to find a wavelength whilst the burgeoning partnership with Cooper has already produced 9 goals in 4 games.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NYRB?

After a shaky start New York now have two wins in two. In fairness, they were better at Red Bull Arena than they were on the road last season so the real test of their new upturn in form will be next week’s visit to Columbus. If the Red Bulls can bring back three points from that trip they will begin to believe they can finally live up to their star billing.

NEXT FIXTURE

April 7 2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. Columbus Crew (A) @Crew Stadium