Thierry Henry hit his first-ever MLS hat-trick as the New York Red Bulls blew past the Montreal Impact 5-2 at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Impact led twice in the first half on goals from Sanna Nyassi and Justin Mapp, but New York pulled level within ten minutes of each Montreal strike through an Henry header and a Kenny Cooper penalty. The Red Bulls played far better in the second half, and took the initiative through a second goal by Henry. Mehdi Ballouchy scored to pad New York's margin inside twenty minutes to go, and Henry completed his hat-trick and capped off the Red Bulls' win in stoppage time.
The Red Bulls started tentatively, with some decent passing through midfield but little incisiveness. Montreal showed a bit of attacking intent in a few early forays, but took the lead on nineteen minutes after some horrible defending by Markus Holgersson. Bernier played a short chip towards the box from midfield, which Richards kicked at and toe-poked back towards the New York goal; the ball bounced into the box and through the legs of Holgersson, who nearly recovered, then slipped, allowing Nyassi to nip in and beat Ryan Meara on his near post.
The home side's reaction to going a goal down was lacking -- the Red Bulls didn't look bad after conceding, but nor did they storm down the other end and place Ricketts' goal under sustained pressure. They played as they did for most of the first half, keeping the ball for the most part on the New York side of midfield, making too many bad passes going forward, and occasionally struggling to pass the ball out of the back. About ten minutes after falling behind, the Red Bulls did apply some brief pressure, and came away with a goal. Márquez crossed in from the right after a New York throw-in, and his well-placed ball was headed in by Henry, ten yards out from the back post.
Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, they weren't level for very long. The New York defending, which was poor for most of the first half, was caught out again in the thirty-eighth minute. Justin Mapp cut in from the left across the top of the box, beat Jan Gunnar Solli for pace, and ripped a shot low into the corner of Meara's goal. The young goalkeeper will probably be disappointed with his effort on the second goal, as he was beaten again at his near post.
Continuing the trend of goals every ten minutes, Kenny Cooper leveled the scores on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot. Matteo Ferrari had scissor-tackled Dax McCarty from behind in stoppage time, and while he got a toe on the ball, he also totally cleaned out the man, and Michael Kennedy pointed to the spot. Cooper stutter-stepped on his run-up and smoothly stroked his penalty down the middle for 2-2.
Teemu Tainio replaced Márquez at the half, as the Mexican captain continues to suffer from a groin strain. Whether it was due to this substitution or an inspirational dressing room speech, New York looked much better after the break: the defense was more composed, New York kept the ball better, and created more chances. Henry set the tone with a goal just over ten minutes into the half; after several scuffed attempts to turn and shoot, he found the bottom corner with a powerful low shot an gave the Red Bulls the lead.
The hosts continued to come forward with confidence, and effectively won the match with just under twenty minutes to play, when Henry backheel-flicked a Solli cutback to Ballouchy, who easily tapped in for 4-2 just minutes after coming on for Joel Lindpere. Montreal were far less threatening than they had been in the opening forty-five minutes, despite bringing on Justin Braun in the waning minutes.
Henry completed his hat-trick and put the cherry on New York's cake in the penultimate minute of normal time. After laying off the ball to Cooper just outside the box, he kept on running and was there to tap in when Ricketts could only parry his strike partner's shot. The Red Bulls captain was probably a shade offside, but neither he nor the roaring crowd in the South Ward cared as they celebrated a second consecutive home win.
Next up for New York is a trip to Columbus to take on the Crew, who picked up their second win of the season earlier on Saturday after a nervy finish in Toronto.
Selected Stats (NY-MTL)
Possession: 59% - 41%
Passing Accuracy: 84% - 79%
Total Passes: 526 - 376
Corners: 5 - 1
Open Play Crosses: 19 - 10
Fouls: 11 - 13
Shots (On Goal): 16(8) - 10(6)