There was a point -- right around the games against the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire -- that it looked like the New York Red Bulls were in danger of becoming the New York Thierry Henrys Presented by Red Bull™.
In the lead up to that stretch, the Red Bulls hadn't managed to score a goal in more than two games. It looked like they were lacking a finisher outside of the French designated player. Mike Petke had to bring in Henry, recovering from an MCL knock, to secure the three points against the Union. To try and get something going while down against the Fire, Henry had to come again, though to much diminished effect. The offense that hung three on the Portland Timbers in Portland was looking a bit anemic, and the onus to get it going again was beginning to fall on the shoulders of their -- and the league's -- best player.
But since then, save a loss against Sporting Kansas City, the Red Bulls have backed off the ledge where they expected Henry to swoop in and save them if they fell. They've found goals and assists from more than just their star striker.
As expected, the two top forwards, Henry and Fabian Espindola, lead the team in goals, with three each. But after that, it's all defenders and midfielders. With Tim Cahill's salary and reputation it's expected he'll near the top, and with two goals, there he is. Unexpected, is Jamison Olave, who's already tied his career high in goals, while only playing nine games and 673 minutes. Another surprise: Dax McCarty, who even surprised himself by scoring against D.C. United. He'd tack on another against the New England Revolution.
Jonny Steele and Eric Alexander, two players many expected to be bit part guys, round out the 2013 goal scorers with one apiece.
A number of players have been setting those goal scorers up, too. Thirteen players have recorded at least one assist, which isn't as surprising when you consider how secondary assist-happy MLS scorekeepers are.
On that front, Brandon Barklage leads the way with three assists 708 minutes. Heath Pearce, who has seems to have found his way to the bench in favor of Roy Miller, has two, a distinction he shares with Steele, Cahill, Juninho and Peguy Luyindula.
Last year the Red Bulls, second in the league in goals for, relied heavily on Henry and recently-departed Kenny Cooper to do the heavy lifting offensively. A task not made any easier by the well-publicizd rate at which they gave up goals.
In 2012, Cooper scored 18 and contributed three assists, while Henry netted 15 himself and set up 12. The next best goal scorer was Joel Lindpere, with five, and next best helper was Miller, with six.
In that light, shutting down the Red Bulls offensively in 2012 meant shutting down Henry and Cooper, or at least disrupting service. A tough task, to be sure, but doable. In 2013, although it's early, opposing teams are going to have to worry about Henry, Espindola and, if last weekend's form holds up, Cahill, along with Olave on set pieces and McCarty from outside the box. And if potential is met, Juninho should threaten on free kicks and Luyindula should be threatening enough to draw attention from opponents.
Still, it's only nine games in, but with multiple players seemingly finding their scoring touch, the potential is there for a more dangerous offensive team.