Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIPhotos.com
By MIKE NASTRI
After a miserable May and June that included just one win, the New York Red Bulls showed what they can do with a nearly full-strength side.
The Red Bulls overcame a promising start from Toronto FC before finding a good attacking rhythm and dismantling the visitors from Canada in a 5-0 dismantling on Wednesday night.
Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers each scored in their return to the lineup, while Joel Lindpere continued his hot play with the third goal of the match and assists on both of Juan Agudelo's match-concluding goals.
The victory moved the Red Bulls back into first place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Philadelphia Union, which has two games in hand on New York.
Henry opened the scoring in the 34th minute off an assist from Jan Gunnar Solli. Solli made a darting run down the right wing and hit a low cross into the box. The ball squirted through the legs of Luke Rodgers and Toronto defender Richard Eckersley and found a wide open Henry. The Red Bull captain took the ball calmly and slotted it past Stefan Frei for his league leading 9th goal of the season.
"I think most of the time we got a hold of the ball, our possesion and the decision making was to go forward," said head coach Hans Backe. "That was probably the key to winning this game."
Solli was at it again just five minutes later. On a similar run down the right side, Solli played a trailing ball at the top of the box to Rodgers. Rodgers flicked the ball up to himself and hit a full volley rocket into the top left corner for the 2-0 lead.
"He is a little bit lucky on the first touch on the first goal because I asked him if he was trying to tip it and he said no, that he was just trying to reach it and bam," said Solli. "That's an instinct for an attacker and it's important for us and it was a nice goal and an important goal for sure."
Joel Lindpere starred on the three second half goals, after having one of his own taken back at the end of the first half. In the 53rd minute, Dane Richards slotted a ball to Lindpere at the top of the box. Lindpere touched the ball around his defender and ripped it home for his fourth in the last three matches.
The Estonian played creator on the last two goals of the match. A perfectly struck Lindpere corner found Juan Agudelo, who headed it home for the insurmountable lead. In the 89th minute, Lindpere played a quick pass to a wide open Agudelo. Agudelo pounded it home for his 4th goal of the season and his first multi-goal game of his career.
The 2010 Red Bulls MVP has been just that the past three games. Lindpere accounted for all three goals in ties with San Jose and Chicago walking into the tilt with Toronto. Lindpere has five goals and five assists on the season and is stating a strong case to be an MLS All-Star.
"I haven't seen so many bad goals against in my whole career in a row," said Lindpere. "I was so frustrated, maybe that's what helped me. Maybe I was getting a little more selfish and that is the result."
Lost in the scoring output was the solid play of the Red Bull defense. The unit posted their first shut out since April 30th against Sporting KC. The duo of Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes that anchored a 2010 Red Bulls squad to an Eastern Conference low 29 goals allowed are starting to click in the absence Mexican DP Rafa Marquez. The shut down defense of Jan Gunnar Solli on Toronto's most dangerous starter, Joao Plata, was another huge part of the clean sheet.
"We definitely needed a clean sheet today," said Backe. "If you look at the last four games and the number of goals, I think we conceded 29 in 30 games and I think we are up to 23 now after 20 games. We need to do better than what we have done so far."
Backe added: "I don't know if they didn't challenge us enough, but it looked more solid, more composed today."
The only negative for New York in this revival game was Teemu Tainio's yellow card. Tainio recieved a caution for dissent and then slamming the ball down in the 60th minute following bad throw-in called on the Finn. The card will force Taini to miss New York's Atlantic Cup show down against D.C. United at home on Saturday. Even though Tainio has been battling injuries, but the Red Bulls will sorely miss thier midfield rock.
"He has been struggling a little bit with injuries," said Solli. "So, maybe this was a small positive. We are going to miss a really good player. But, now he gets his chance to finally be ready. And I'm sure people will be up to the challenge of playing in Teemu's position."
One of the the guys will have to step up in Tainio's absence will be newly acquired Dax McCarty, who will be facing his former team on Saturday. The match will also mark Dwyane De Rosario's return to Red Bull Arena in just his third game since being traded to D.C. United last Monday. This rivalry game will have even more heat than usual as the two star midfielders will try to prove their old teams wrong for trading them, helping their new team toward victory.
What did you think of the Red Bulls convincing win? Glad to see New York firing on all cylinders? Hoping for a better July? Think Lindpere should be an all star? What did you think of Toronto's flat performance?