Sunday, April 17, 2011

New York Finally Break The Dam

After four games worth of frustration ridden, eventually unsuccessful possession, the New York Red Bulls have finally broken the dam and delivered an alarming signal of intent to their Eastern Conference rivals.

A day that had started brilliantly for New York after a last minute Fernandez header robbed Philadelphia of all three points, got even better just two minutes into the Red Bulls' home tie with San Jose.

Much maligned over the early parts of this season, it was Englishman Luke Rodgers who converted Dane Richards' pull back from a Rafa Marquez corner, giving New York the early lead. San Jose must have sensed how important that early goal was to the Red Bulls, because their heads had already dropped when, on fifteen minutes, Rodgers made it two.

Recovering from an achilles injury in time to make this one, Henry knicked the ball off a defender before curling a lovely, low cross into the box which was blasted home by the onrushing Rodgers. Home and dry within fifteen minutes New York were starting to dominate, and Rodgers was beginning to reveal why Hans Backe thinks so highly of him.

Credit to New York, despite that early advantage, they continued to press on, and Henry nearly scored his first goal of the season, only for his side footed effort to be saved by San Jose keeper Jon Busch.

Last season, it was the combination play of Bobby Convey and Chris Wondolowski which helped to knock the New York Red Bulls out of the playoffs, but this time around the pair were totally ineffective, covering a lot of ground, but finding their respective searches for the ball futile.

If San Jose were to mount an unlikely second half come back, then the road back into the game needed to have been embarked upon early in the second half, but within minutes of the start of the second period it became clear that the Red Bulls weren't in the mood to let their precious lead slip away.

First Henry was played through on goal, rounded the keeper, and then some how stroked the ball into the side netting, with the goal gaping. Lying on the ground in disbelief, it was clear for all to see that despite his early season comments about "only caring about the team," and being "happy not to be the main man," the only thing he really wanted was a goal.

After half an hour of quite possession, the Red Bulls came back into life on seventy-eight minutes when yet another Henry effort was parried over the top by Busch. It appeared that it just wouldn't be the Frenchman's night but, finally, on eighty-five minutes, the former Arsenal man got his goal.

Fittingly, the man who created Henry's first strike of the season was the same man who Henry had set up for the Red Bulls' second of the night: Luke Rodgers. Showing remarkable poise and vision, Rodgers turned down the chance to shoot for the hat trick, opting instead to play a delicate chipped ball to the far post which was met by a flying Henry header that soared past Busch and into the back of the net.

Three-nil up, and the game done and dusted, the last five minutes served as a chance for Han Backe to try out some more youth, subbing on Agudelo for a cameo, before giving John Rooney his debut.

Neither of those substitutes had time to make any kind of impact, but really, they didn't need to. The night's work had arguably been wrapped up on fifteen minutes with Rodgers' second of the night, it was hard to see San Jose coming back from there.

Pre-match, it seemed a strange decision for Backe to opt with Rodgers instead of Agudelo, but you can't argue with results, and Rodgers' two goals have made him the Red Bulls' leading scorer this season.

Encouragingly for New York, Thierry Henry looked back to his best in this game, claiming a goal and assist which only served to complement a glittering display in attack.

For San Jose, this game is testament to the amount of work which will be needed if the Californians are to return to the heady heights of a Conference final. Their midfield was totally incapable of defending the back four from wave after wave of New York possession and, in all honesty, it was only Jon Busch which stopped the score from becoming ridiculous.

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