The New York Red Bulls broke their four-match winless streak with a 5-0 thrashing of Toronto FC to move into first place in the Eastern Conference. Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers, and Joel Lindpere all scored before Juan Agudelo's brace gave New York their biggest win ever at Red Bull Arena.
Head coach Hans Backe returned to the touchline for New York after his recent surgery, and made three changes to the starting XI that drew 2-2 with San Jose on Sunday night. Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry returned as the Red Bulls' strike partnership in place of Juan Agudelo and Mehdi Ballouchy, while the revolving door at goalkeeper continued with Greg Sutton replacing Bouna Coundoul between the posts.
New York started with a bit of the attacking verve that has characterized their first halves at home this season, but looked far from comfortable when Toronto threatened on the counter-attack. Henry created the first quality opportunity for the Red Bulls on eighteen minutes, when Dane Richards inexplicably blasted wide from the Frenchman's well-played ball across the top of the box. New York should have had a penalty eight minutes later, when Stefan Frei tripped Henry in the Toronto box, but referee Geoff Gamble did not point to the spotThe Red Bulls took the lead shortly afterward when Rodgers heel-flicked a Jan Gunnar Solli cross to Henry, who calmly slotted the ball past Frei from just outside the six-yard box to go top of the MLS scoring charts. Rodgers got in on the act just five minutes later, flipping up another ball Solli had played into the penalty area, and then half-volleying it spectacularly into the back of the net. Toronto looked buried at 2-0 and the Red Bulls should have had a third goal just before the break, but Joel Lindpere's free kick strike was wrongly chalked off for a foul in the penalty area.
While New York has frequently struggled in the minutes following the half-time break this season, the Red Bulls looked far better on this night, and soon had the third goal they clearly wanted. Seven minutes into the second half, and just after Greg Sutton had pushed a Martina shot onto the post to keep Toronto at bay, Richards broke down the right side and laid the ball in for Lindpere, who took one touch and then fired into the bottom left corner for his fifth goal of the season.
Juan Agudelo replaced Luke Rodgers shortly after that third goal, likely to keep New York's #9 fit for Saturday's massive game against DC United. If Toronto thought this meant the Red Bulls would ease off, they were quite mistaken, and TFC looked like the more disinterested of the two sides after New York's third goal.
Toronto were wide open at the back, and the Red Bulls repeatedly looked like taking advantage before winning a corner kick in the sixty-seventh minute. Lindpere swung the ball into the penalty area and Agudelo powered a header across Frei's body and into the back of the net for New York's fourth.
Even at 4-0 up, the Red Bulls were far from finished and continued to create chances as Toronto pushed forward in hope of ruining New York's clean sheet. Dane Richards, Agudelo, and Lindpere continued to be dangerous, and it was the combination of the last two who inflicted yet more pain on the visitors. With just two minutes of normal time remaining, a very poor clearance fell to Lindpere, who laid the ball on for Agudelo to tap in for his second and New York's fifth.
The Red Bulls' win was total: they dominated the game, created plenty of good chances, and scored most of those opportunities. The victory pushes them above the Philadelphia Union and into top spot in the Eastern Conference, the five-goal winning margin is New York's biggest ever at Red Bull Arena and the biggest home win in MLS this season, and the best attack in Major League Soccer now also possesses the best goal difference, with +11. The clean sheet was New York's first since a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City way back at the end of April. Most importantly, the emphatic manner of this win should give the Red Bulls plenty of confidence going into this weekend's clash with hated rivals DC United.
Selected Statistics (NY-TFC)
Passing Accuracy: 87%-79%
Total Passes: 571-308
Open Play Crosses: 23-8
Fouls Committed: 6-8
Shots (On Goal): 17(8)-8(5)