BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Three weeks ago, the New York Red Bulls had scored all of one goal through their first two fixtures. Homeland Security denied a work visa to their star striker Luke Rodgers, who was stuck in England with no hope of a return. Though New York acquired Kenny Cooper from Portland in anticipation of such a scenario, they didn’t show outward confidence in pairing the big American forward and Thierry Henry – going so far as to start an out of form Juan Agudelo with the team captain over him for the season opener.
What a difference three games make.
Henry and Cooper continued their dominant form, scoring a brace a piece for the second time in three games en route to New York’s first road victory of the season against the Columbus Crew by the score of 4-1. This marks the Red Bull’s third consecutive victory after suffering two straight losses to start their campaign. In that time frame, the team has collected thirteen goals while allowing only four against. Twelve of those goals have come at the feet of their standout striking tandem.
“It’s a massive away win, once again scoring four goals and our strikers scoring all of them. It’s phenomenal,” said Red Bull’s Coach Hans Backe.
“We didn’t start the season the way any of us wanted to,” said Kenny Cooper. “We went home, we got great results at home. Maybe we came into this game with some good momentum and confidence. It’s nice to get that first road victory.
“We were fortunate to get the early goal,” he continued, though luck had little to do with it. Henry played a sublime service to Cooper in the box. The striker chested the ball down, leaned on two defenders, turned on it and sent a low screamer towards the near post past keeper Andy Gruenebaum for the 1-0 lead in the 3rd minute of play. “It was an incredible ball by Thierry. I said it before, he can do everything. That’s all I can say. He scores goals, he creates them. He doesn’t do a little of everything – he does a lot of everything. He’s an exceptional player and again, he led by example today.
“I think any player in the world would love the opportunity to play alongside (Henry) and I feel very privileged to have had that opportunity during the season and preseason. I don’t hide the fact he is a hero of mine and it’s a great privilege to train and play with him on a daily basis.”
Cooper’s second of the match came ten minutes later as he followed a deflected Dane Richards shotin the box and headed home a pin point strike with a lot of movement that curled past the outstretched keeper, giving New York the 2-0 lead.
The goal would also place Cooper atop the MLS goal scoring leader board, if only for 27 minutes. In the 40th, Roy Miller would put an end to that reign. The Costa Rican defender sent Thierry Henry into space where he nailed a classic strike to the far post that Gruenebaum had no chance of stopping.
New York took their 3-0 lead into the second half. Columbus put on pressure throughout the final 45 minutes of the match, testing the Red Bulls, who were playing defensively. When all seemed lost for the Crew, Chad Marshall finally broke through, finding a header that beat Ryan Meara late in the game thanks to a defensive miscue by Markus Holgersson. An infuriated Henry would respond minutes later with a thunderous blast in extra time to round out the score at 4-1.
“I was pissed with the second half. I think we should do better than that,” Henry said. “You’re three nil away from home – why you scared? Why the panic at times in the back? Keep the ball. We are three nil up – what more do you want? I know you still have to work hard and it’s not easy to play against Columbus and we all know it, but we are three nil up and at times I thought at the back we could be more composed.
“Now mainly, when you play a game like we played, the second half should be a tiny bit easier than what it was. I am not scared to say it; they should have come back into the game. If they put the ball into the back of the net, it could have been 3-3, so that’s why I was a bit pissed off when I put the ball into the back of the net because it should have been an easier second half. “
Nevertheless, the team captain saw improvement in the teams play. “Less mistakes and putting the ball in the back of the net – that’s the difference if you want to win games. Every time you have the chance, you have to try and capitalize on that one, especially away from home, and avoid mistakes.”
The Red Bull’s will be riding their red hot striking duo into battle this Saturday as they return to Red Bull Arena to face a lethal San Jose Earthquakes side.
Henry and Cooper have certainly turned heads this season. Share your thoughts on the duo and the match below.