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Henry Watch – Toronto 1 New York Red Bulls 1

June 30th 2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. Toronto FC (A) @BMO Field.

TEAMS

NEW YORK RED BULLS – 4-4-2

Meara; Barklage, Lade, Pearce, Conde; McCarty, Solli, Richards, Lindpere; Henry, Cooper.

TORONTO FC – 4-4-2

Kocic; Hall, Morgan, Eckersley, Emory; Lambe, Frings, Dunfield, Avila; Johnson, Koevermans.

PREAMBLE

After rushing his comeback and aggravating an injury in May, Thierry Henry was finally fit to return to the Red Bulls’ starting line up against Toronto. Whilst the goals haven’t flowed as freely in his absence, they’ve fared pretty well without him: last week’s victory over bitter rivals DC United dragged New York level at the top of the Eastern Conference.

This week’s opponents represented a challenge to New York as they found their feet under new management. Toronto had an abysmal start to the season losing their first nine matches, leading to the departure of head coach Aaron Winter.

The Ajax old boy was replaced by Toronto Director of Soccer, and former Arsenal player, Paul Mariner. Mariner, who made 60 appearances for the Gunners between ’84 and ’86 has begun to steady the ship. Of the four games he’s taken charge of Toronto lost the first but managed to draw two and notch only their second victory of the season against Canadian rivals Montreal. Coming into this game they sat rock bottom of the Eastern Conference on eight points from 14 games. 

Former PSV striker Danny Koevermans leads the line and has so far netted four times since Mariner took over. Toronto is also home to former German international Torsten Frings and one time Manchester United youngster Richard Eckersley.

As has become the norm for New York, the return of key players was accompanied by the absence of others. Henry and Conde were finally back, however Marquez and Mehdi Ballouchy both missed out.

HIGHLIGHTS

New York have had a useful knack of scoring early goals this season and continued the trend here. After four minutes Jan Gunnar Solli got onto the end of a good cross from Brandon Barklage and flicked the ball comfortably past Kocic. The Norwegian has obviously developed a taste for goals having netted his first for the Red Bull’s in last weeks win over DC United.

Another feature of Red Bulls’ play this season has been suspect defending from set pieces. On six minutes a corner from Frings wasn’t dealt with and Koevermans was left free to head home the equaliser. The Dutchman’s rich vein of form continued with his eighth of the season.

Henry’s first notable contribution to the game came when one of his speciality quick free kick’s flew just over the bar. When he has attempted this in the past he’s succeeded in clipping gently over the wall. Here he opted for power and gave it just too much.

Despite a quieter evening than usual Henry continued to probe and provided a typical moment of invention that almost led to New York regaining the lead. Dropping deeper he combined with Solli and Cooper who laid the ball back for a first time strike. His side footed effort was just over but it was the closest New York would come in the second half.

Whilst New York had looked the most likely for most of the game they were put under serious pressure in the last 10 minutes. Meara saved well from a Koevermans header before Toronto substitute Soolsma put wide at the death.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE

Henry claimed to be “feeling great” in the lead up to this game but it’s clear that he needs time to rediscover the dominant displays he produced earlier in the season. His early season form will have no doubt been aided by his stint at Arsenal. Playing at the top level for us allowed him to hit the ground running, as others played themselves into form. The injury he sustained in May has set him back, meaning more games are needed to regain match sharpness. We are now halfway through the MLS season so if Henry can rediscover his form from here on, New York will be in a strong position.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NYRB?

With DC winning in midweek this draw sees New York slip back down to second. At this stage of the season there is no need to panic, especially as next week’s away trip to New England is followed by three winnable home games in a week. July will be concluded with another trip to Canada to take on Montreal so, all told, a strong July is achievable. We should know at the end of this month whether New York are serious contenders for silverware.

ELSEWHERE IN THE MLS…

David Beckham responded to the disappointment of being left out of the Team GB Olympic squad by converting one of his trade mark free kicks. The goal drew LA level at the time but they eventually went on to surrender a 3-1 lead, losing 4-3 to Western Conference leaders, San Jose Earthquakes. Chris Wondowloski tucked away the winner taking his tally to 14 for the season, three ahead of Kenny Cooper and five clear of Henry.

NEXT FIXTURE

July 8th 2012 – MLS Regular Season

Vs. New England Revolution (A) @Gillette Stadium.

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