The New York Red Bulls gained a measure of revenge over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night as they recorded an emphatic 3-0 win despite horrendous weather conditions, broke a three-game winless run and chalked up their biggest league victory at Red Bull Arena. Luke Rodgers scored his first goal in Major League Soccer after just two minutes, added a second inside a quarter-hour, and Thierry Henry capped off a thoroughly dominant Red Bulls performance with his first goal of the season late in the second half.
The opening goal for New York was not just the first first-half goal the Red Bulls have scored in 2011, it was also the first scored off of a set piece. Chris Wondolowski flicked on Rafael Márquez's corner at the near post, Dane Richards chipped back across into the box from the far side of the six-yard box, and the diminutive Rodgers redirected the ball into the back of the net past the outstretched arms of Jon Busch before wheeling away in celebration.
Frank Yallop was probably furious with his defense for giving away a headed goal from a corner to an unmarked five-foot eight-inch striker in the six-yard box, but matters did not improve for the visitors and New York plundered a second thirteen minutes later. Henry caught Ramiro Corrales in possession on New York's right and played a great pass across the penalty area for Rodgers to tap in near the far post. Another defensive collapse, another goal for the Red Bulls.
The Red Bulls (yet again) could have been out of sight by halftime, and Thierry Henry spurned a great chance to make it 3-0 on twenty-five minutes. A cross from Lindpere was not cleared and came to Henry at the top of the box, but his shot was weak, low, and saved by Busch. In spite of the missed opportunities, the Red Bulls were surely pleased with their first half showing and a two-goal cushion at the break.
The second half brought yet more New York dominance as the gap between San Jose's midfield and defense got wider. Luke Rodgers was picking final balls brilliantly and the Red Bulls tore into the 'Quakes with pace, but for one reason or another, they failed to score. Henry had a brilliant chance to add a third on fifty-two minutes after Rodgers had put him clean through against Busch, but the French striker chose to go around the 'keeper and fired his sharp-angled shot into the side netting in front of the South Ward.
The less brilliant side of Rodgers was on display shortly after, as Brandon McDonald threw him to the ground and the English striker responded by pushing the 'Quakes centerback. McDonald probably should have been sent off, but Chris Penso, who was refereeing his first MLS game, instead gave a yellow each to McDonald and Rodgers. While he had clearly been provoked, Rodgers needs to be more careful given the arbitrary MLS officiating.
Rodgers regained his cool after that and set up another great chance for New York on sixty-six minutes when he released Lindpere down the inside left channel. The Estonian midfielder burst into the box but was taken down by Jason Hernandez, who had an arm over Lindpere's shoulder and probably clipped his heel. However, the referee was not interested and refused to give New York a pretty obvious penalty.
Henry looked to have re-aggravated his recurrent Achilles tendon injury just after the seventy-minute mark, but came back on the pitch and unleashed a powerful drive at goal from twenty-five yards out that was just pushed wide of goal by Busch. He got another chance on eighty-three minutes, when he played a one-two with Rodgers and muscled away from Ike Opara but shot well over the bar.
However, there was still a twist in the tale for New York. Rodgers was yet again the provider (this guy is practically the #10 we've needed), curling a cross from near the right corner of the penalty area that Henry met with a great diving header past the flat-footed Busch for 3-0 and his first goal of the 2011 season.
So, a big win (finally) from this team -- and done almost entirely without Juan Agudelo. Henry raised his game significantly and looks positively frightening after finally breaking his duck, Rodgers has an uncanny ability to pick a final ball for a guy who is ostensibly a striker, and the Red Bulls look capable of keeping the ball while still creating chances. It was very surprising how Dwayne De Rosario seemed a largely peripheral figure, but New York was extremely dangerous in spite of thim and were well worth all three points. There's a short week ahead for the Red Bulls, as they travel down I-95 for a clash with DC United on Thursday. Here's hoping they keep the momentum from this game going and roll over the swamp dwellers.
Selected Stats (NY - SJ)
Possession: 57% - 43%
Passing Accuracy: 84% - 75%
Total Passes: 444 - 337
Corners: 7 - 1
Open Play Crosses: 15 - 9
Shots (on goal): 16(9) - 7(3)