For unclear reasons the New York Red Bulls sported their away outfit of dark blue shirts and yellow shorts at their own arena against Toronto FC last Saturday. On the road the Red Bulls have struggled this season, but last week the New York team hammered Houston FC 1-4 away from home. In their away outfit at home the Red Bulls continued their good sequence with a decent 2-0 victory over Toronto FC.
It was a game the Red Bulls were favoured to win, having picked up 28 points at home this season. A tally surpassing Toronto´s 23 points collected in total so far. Surprisingly the visitors, coached by Ryan Nelsen, had the better of the play in the opening minutes, pressing the home side deep into their own half.
Kimura´s stretching intervention cleared Bloom´s dangerous cross from the right channel after 15 minutes. Dax McCarthy´s attempted a meek volley at the other end. For all Toronto´s domination and probing though, there first clear-cut chance materialized after 25 minutes when Wiedeman´s diving header from Alvaro´s cross nearly kissed the crossbar.
Then Thierry Henry took centre stage. Against the run of play he put the Red Bulls in front after 32 minutes: Bustamante´s pass found Alexander in behind the back of a terribly marking Morgan; Alexander composedly squared it for Henry to simply tuck it in at the far post. Henry´s celebrated his goal by showing off his new trademark celebration in leaning against the post.
Yet it was a clear statement from the Frenchmen, underlining his importance to the Red Bulls. The club captain and coach Petke were involved in a heated bust-up on August 29 during a training session. And while the content of the fiery exchange remains shrouded in mystery, the beleaguered Petke covertly admitted earlier in the week that the argument with Henry had galvanized the Red Bulls.
Henry himself showed a positive attitude on the field. A permanent feature of his game was dropping back to carry out defensive duties. Bradley Wright-Phillips and Henry had been feeding of scraps, playing in total isolation up front. Henry sensed this and duly took up defensive responsibilities. The Red Bulls´ number fourteen showed no sign of discontent in doing so.
Henry´s goal and the preceding interplay with Alexander and Bustamante were the sole highlight in a rather ugly first-half with the Red Bulls and Toronto both battling for midfield supremacy, but after Henry´s goal the Red Bulls took control of the match, which reflected in 61.4 % of ball possession for Petke´s men at the interval.
The only satisfaction Petke could take from the first half was the numerical advantage on the scoreboard. The Red Bulls had put in an underwhelming act against uninspired and weak opposition. But Petke´s half-time talk did not spur particular improvement after the break.
More industry and slow ball movement in the middle of the park permeated the course of the second half. Toronto were clanging on to keep their chances of making the play-offs alive, while the Red Bulls looked to extend their lead. Thierry Henry´s cross found Holgersson deep inside the box after 60 minutes, but from a difficult angle the Swede´s header was an easy catch for Toronto goalkeeper Joseph Bendik.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, indifferent, squandered an opportunity at the edge of the box a few minutes later when his low attempt lacked any sort of power, but he tested Bendik a little later with a strong header. The Toronto goalie did well to prevent a second Red Bulls´ goal. But as Ryan Nelsen threw on Bright Dyke, recently acquired from the Portland Timbers and a Super Eagle on November 14, 2012 against Venezuela, the Red Bulls decided the game with an unlikely goal from Fabian Espindola.
Espindola came on Bradley-Wright Phillips and instantly proved to be a super-sub for Mike Petke. Barely a few seconds on the field, Espindola was first to react to a flick on by Steven Caldwell from David Carney´s deflected cross and Espindola´s header from an improbable, if not impossible, angle deceived Bendik to double the Red Bulls´s advantage. It was a header Espindola couldn´t have nailed better.
It was sluggish from the Red Bulls at times, but Petke indicated that in post-match press conference that he was satisfied with his team´s performance and happy with the three points.The Red Bulls now move to the top of the MLS Eastern Conference, opening up a three point advantage over nearest rivals of Montreal Impact and Kansas City with five games left in the regular season.