By IVES GALARCEP
The big question surrounding the New York Red Bulls early on in the 2014 season has been who would step up to provide Thierry Henry some support in attack and a real goal threat.
Bradley Wright-Phillips made his case for being up for that role on Wednesday night, scoring a hat trick to help lead the Red Bulls to a 4-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena.
Wright-Phillips tapped home an Henry pass in the 12th minute to open the scoring, then finished off a clever side-footed finish off a Roy Miller pass in the 24th minute to give the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead.
Henry provided the insurance goal in the 65th minute when he raced onto a rebounded Tally Hall save to slot home his third goal of the season.
Wright-Phillips sealed the victory, and secured his hat trick, when he calmly converted a penalty kick drawn by Henry in the 86th minute.
The Dynamo looked like a tired team, having come off a Saturday 0-0 draw at Philadelphia. Houston stayed in the New York area after that match to limit the wear and tear of extra travel, but the Red Bulls still looked like the fresher team, having been off since last week’s 2-1 win against the Philadelphia Union.
Houston struggled to deal with Henry’s movement, and he found gaps in the Dynamo defense on several occasions. He was left unmarked in the 12th minute on the right side of the penalty area, allowing him plenty of time to tee up a perfect pass to Wright-Phillips directly in front of goal. The English striker finished easily to start the romp early.
Henry was at the eart of the attack on the Red Bulls’ second goal as well, hitting a perfect long pass to the left flank, where Miller raced onto it and beat Warren Creavalle before sliding a pass to Wright-Phillips, who side-footed a shot in stride past Hall to make the score 2-0 in the 24th minute.
The Dynamo showed more energy at the start of the second half, and came close to scoring on two occasions, but Will Bruin and Giles Barnes both saw their early second-half chances miss by inches.
The Red Bulls put the match to bed in the 65th minute when Hall punched away a Wright-Phillips cross, only to have it fall to a streaking Henry, who made no mistake with the finish.
Henry helped set up Wright-Phillips third goal after being taken down in the penalty area by Houston’s Tony Cascio. Wright-Phillips blasted his penalty attempt past Hall for his fourth goal of the season.
The win, New York’s second in a row, improves their record to 2-2-4, while the Dynamo has lost four of five matches after a promising 2-0 start to the season.
The Red Bulls return to action on Saturday, with a visit to the Columbus Crew. The Dynamo return to Houston for a Sunday meeting with winless, but dangerous, Portland.
Here are the match highlights: