The Red Bulls squad on the field Sunday was quite a bit different than 2011's interation of the team writes Leander Schaerleakens.
From there, New York displayed all kinds of traits previously alien to it. It defended compactly, pressed effectively, stretched out rapidly and zipped the ball around cleanly in possession. The Red Bulls even showed a little flair. At last, the team played with the composure expected of a team with players of this stature. In the 53rd minute, Conde played a splendid ball over the top to Henry, who had run away from the sleepy Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne and easily curled his effort around Matt Pickens to make it 3-0. A bad giveaway by the otherwise strong -- and more notably, sometimes smiling -- Rafa Marquez in the 77th minute allowed Omar Cummings to deftly lob Meara to ruin the shutout. But an 89th-minute rampage up the left by Roy Miller handed Cooper his second goal on a platter. Henry even passed up a gilt-edged chance to make it 5-1 in the 93rd minute, when he failed one-on-one against Pickens.
But what was it that had been so dramatically different? Nobody quite knew.
Henry and Cooper might be similar players, but Alex Labidou writes that Cooper's deference to Henry is what makes it work.
The best forward tandems in the world usually combine very different strikers who could feed off of each other well. A towering physical striker who's good in the air with a nimble smaller who can penetrate defenses and create scoring opportunities, or a deep lying forward paired with a pacey striker.
One of the reasons the two Red Bulls forwards have worked together well is Cooper's willingness to defer to Henry. Forwards are considered to be the wide receivers of soccer. Like their NFL counterparts, they are usually confident and even boastful. Cooper is the opposite of that. He speaks in an emotionless tone and is a bit modest. Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe pointed out that trait after the Red Bulls' 4-1 thrashing of the Colorado Rapids.
"He's a very nice guy, probably too nice. If he would use his body a little bit more [physically], he would even score more," the coach said.
Capital New York: The Red Bulls win one, easing the torment of coach Hans Backe, maybe
Howard Megdal writes Backe bought himself a little more time with Sunday's victory.
"When I was young, I probably would have felt a little bit more nervous with the pressure and things like that," Backe told ESPN.com. "Now I know I do it my way and if that doesn't succeed, OK, then I get sacked. But if I do it my way and get sacked I have no problem with that. Because this is what I believe in."
It was extraordinarily dark stuff, for this point in a season. But it also reflected the extent of New York's problems in its first two matches, and the level of dissatisfaction from New York's fans about the team's failure to reach failure to reach an elite level in American soccer following the blockbuster summer 2010 signings of Thierry Henry, former star for Arsenal and France, and Rafa Marquez, formerly of Barcelona and still of the Mexican national team.
Soccer By Ives: Marquez, Conde breathe life back into Red Bulls
While the easy story is Henry and Cooper netting two goals each, the big story is the return of Rafael Marquez and the debut of Wilman Conde, writes Dave Martinez.
Rafa Marquez teamed with Dax McCarty in the midfield, developing a symbiotic relationship that enabled the returning Red Bulls DP to apply his game on both sides of the pitch. "I think we work well together," McCarty explained during training this week. "When he pushes up, I know to cover, and when he is covering, I know I can push up." As a result, McCarty, who had struggled mightily in the first two matches of the season, enjoyed an inspired performance backed by the steady play of his midfield partner.
Meanwhile, the returning Wilman Conde, who has not played a professional competitive match in nearly a year, didn’t look like he missed a beat. Coming off of surgery to his left foot and a right thigh strain, the Colombian centerback was a physical presence in the middle, surprisingly unafraid to challenge for the ball when called upon. His commanding leadership in the back spearheaded a return to form for a defensive line that desperately needed organization.