The New York Red Bulls badly needed Thierry Henry the goal scorer to show up, but they also received a welcome boost from Henry the leader, as the French captain pushed, pleaded and propelled the short-handed Red Bulls to victory on a night when another late collapse seemed possible.
Henry did his part offensively, driving in a dangerous cross that turned into an own goal and pulling off one of his trademark moves to score a goal of his own. New England fought back to make it a game, but the Red Bulls were able to avoid late-game mistakes to post a 2-1 victory that snapped a six-match winless streak.
New England nearly opened the scoring in the 34th minute when Shalrie Joseph stepped up to take a penalty earned when Stephen Keel fouled Rajko Lekic in the penalty area. The normally reliable Joseph saw his penalty stopped by Red Bulls goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who dove to his left to stop the penalty and keep the match scoreless.
Henry responded just three minutes later by driving down the right flank and powering in a hard and low cross that Ryan Cochrane struck into his own net.
Henry victimized Cochrane again in the second half, turning the veteran Revs defender before unleashing a blast past Matt Reis to make the score 2-0 in the 50th minute. Zak Boggs answered with his own goal just four minutes later, but the Revs never could find the equalizer.
New England appeared to score an equalizer in the 84th minute when Lekic headed home a long cross, only to be ruled offside (he was offside by several feet). The Red Bulls went from thinking they had blown a late lead for the second straight week to realizing they still had the lead, which they never gave up.
The victory moves the Red Bulls (5-2-7) into first place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Philadelphia Union, which has two games in hand and faces Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
The loss keeps New England sliding, marking the team's fourth straight loss. The Revs dropped to 3-7-4, though a change to a 4-4-2 in the second half gave Steve Nicol some positives to look to going forward. New England's offense was ineffective playing in a 4-5-1 in the first half, but when Kenny Mansally came into the match to partner with Lekic, New England began finding more chances.
The Red Bulls' victory was a vital one heading into a brutal road trip that will include visits to Portland and Seattle four days apart. Playing without four starters and super sub Juan Agudelo, all away at the Gold Cup, the Red Bulls suddenly find themselves riding a five-match unbeaten streak, though four of those matches were draws.
What did you think of the performance? Who impressed you besides Henry? Think the Revs are doomed to another season without the playoffs?
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