Yes, you read that right. The New York Red Bulls, sans Thierry Henry, went down to Texas and showed enough grit, fight and determination to eke out only their second road win of the year - and their first win of any kind since July 6 - against a tough FC Dallas team.
A first half Luke Rodgers strike, from a Juan Agudelo pass, was the difference between the clubs. In the end, New York was forced to defend doggedly for most of the second half, with only the occasional break. Joel Lindpere had a chance to ice the game away with about 20 minutes left, but failed to recognize Agudelo's run and the chance was lost. After that, the Red Bulls largely bunkered down and relied on their defensive shape and the solid goalkeeping of Frank Rost.
With Luke Rodgers subbed off in favor of Hans Backe lovechild Mehdi Ballouchy, the second half was a matter of backs-to-the-wall defending for the Red Bulls. FC Dallas, looking depleted from their CONCACAF Champions League exertions in midweek, pushed for the equalizer, bringing on Fabian Castillo to exploit the Red Bulls' lack of pace, but stout New York defending was up to the challenge. Tim Ream handled everything that came his way, Rost marshaled the backline and dealt with balls in the area as one would expect of a designated player, and somehow the Red Bulls emerged from Frisco with a sorely needed three points.
FC Dallas had the better of the exchanges in the early part of the first half, with the profligate Maicon Santos squandering several excellent opportunities to put his team ahead. Deprived of three quarters of its backline, the Red Bulls' defensive shape was often suspect, with Stephen Keel and stand-in captain Chris Albright frequently pulled out of position. As the first half progressed, however, New York seemed to find its feet and gave as good as they got before the break. If they were less adventurous after half time, it was only to be expected, given the list of no-shows.
This is New York's first away victory since they crushed DC United 4-0 back in April at RFK. It's also their first clean sheet in league play since July 16. For now at least, Rost has solidified his place as first choice goalkeeper. Assuming that he can continue to exhibit the form he showed tonight - and barring any injuries on he flight back to the East Coast - the German could provide the Red Bulls with badly needed assurance at the back as they make their stretch run.
Where does this sweet, sweet victory leave the Red Bulls? With DC United losing to Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo winning in San Jose, the postseason is still very much up in the air. The Red Bulls seemed very focused on the task at hand this evening in Dallas, rather than scoreboard watching. They would be well-advised to continue in that vein, as things only get tougher from here on out. Home games against Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles Galaxy loom on the horizon, as well as tough away trips to Sporting Kansas City and a suddenly revived Toronto FC. The Red Bulls could yet make the playoffs, but it's going to take more of what we saw tonight, contributions from those who were missing, and a bit more in the way of invention.