The New York Red Bulls picked up their first points of the 2012 season with a confident 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids in their opening game of the year at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper scored within the first ten minutes and both found the net again in the second half, while Omar Cummings scored the visitors' only goal in the closing stages. New York looked better on defense and attack, but will have to make further improvements if they are to contend for silverware this season (sorry be a downer, but it's true).
The game was shaped almost entirely by the Red Bulls' two early goals -- Henry struck first, just three minutes in, when he latched onto a misplayed backpass by Ross LeBauex and slid a shot past Matt Pickens to open his account for the season. Three minutes later, Cooper took the game away from the Rapids. After good midfield pressure from New York enabled the hosts to win the ball back, Henry slid a pass into the inside right channel for Cooper, who took the ball around a poor challenge by Drew Moor and fired in to double New York's advantage.
Colorado looked pretty shocked after conceding two early goals, and the Red Bulls appeared comfortable with their advantage. The visitors came forward sparingly in the rest of the first half, and made little of their many free kick opportunities. The Red Bulls sat back more, largely stopped pressing, and didn't show the same drive that had given them their lead. This could be construed as a sign of an intelligent, experienced team -- knowing when to push the envelope and when to ease off -- or as a continuation of the team's long-running problems in midfield.
New York came out with a bit more intensity after the break, and soon had a goal to show for their improved play. Wilman Conde, making his first start for the Red Bulls, clipped a free kick from well inside his own half up to Henry, who beat the Rapids' offside trap, took the ball down nicely, opened up his body, and slotted in for his second of the game to give New York a comfortable 3-0 lead. It was a classic Henry finish off an excellent ball over the top from Conde.
After yet another incident of atrocious refereeing around the 60' mark (I can't be bothered to dignify the stupidity of it with a description), Colorado pulled a goal back with thirteen minutes to go. The Red Bulls had created a few chances in the intervening minutes, but lacked a bit of finishing quality. Omar Cummings didn't lack any quality, though, when the Red Bulls backed off him as he ran towards goal, just outside the New York box, and unleashed a lovely curling shot into the top corner to spoil Ryan Meara's clean sheet.
The Red Bulls would get their three-goal lead back late on, though, as a nice move down the left culminated with Cooper, or possibly a Rapids defender, tapping in a nice pull-back from the endline by Roy Miller (of all the players!). Henry nearly completed his hat-trick in stoppage time after a lovely bit of skill to carve open the defense, but he scuffed his shot right at Pickens.
New York has points on the board after a tough start to the season, the CRISIS is off for a week, we're scoring goals and not allowing as many as before. At the same time, the team still lacked a bit of intensity after taking an early lead, and it would have built a bit more confidence among the fanbase if they had continued to press Colorado and aimed to win by five or six. As it is, we're now fourth in the Eastern Conference, and host expansion side Montreal next week.
Selected Stats (NY-COR)
Possession: 51% - 49%
Passing Accuracy: 82% - 82%
Total Passes: 498 - 467
Corners: 1 - 3
Open Play Crosses: 7 - 15
Fouls: 20 - 12
Shots (On Goal): 11(8) - 8(5)