Thursday NY Gaffer: Red Bulls' return to dominance

New York Red Bulls celebration - July 6, 2011

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HARRISON, N.J. — For just the second time since late April, the New York Red Bulls won a league match and their 5-0 victory over Toronto FC proved a clinical offensive display. The Thursday Morning Gaffer explores Wednesday's win and several of the highlights of the night:

1. All Systems Running (Almost) — The Red Bulls were struggling heading into Wednesday’s match with eight ties in their previous 11 matches, which they played largely with makeshift lineups due to international call-ups and injuries. 

But with the exception of central defender Rafa Márquez, still out with a hamstring injury, the starting XI against TFC was manager Hans Backe’s ideal lineup.

“It was perfect the way we killed the game and ended up scoring five goals,” Backe said. “Probably one of the better performances this year.”

The five goals were the most scored by New York since October 2009, when the Red Bulls put up five goals on, yes, Toronto.

2. The Rodgers Effect — Scoring his sixth goal of the season in the 38th minute of the first half, Luke Rodgers proved why he’s a valuable asset to the Red Bulls. Having missed the last four games with a heel injury, Rodgers showed little signs of the problem, audaciously chipping a Jan Gunnar Solli pass to himself and then firing a laser past TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Rodgers’ high work rate and mobility opens passing lanes for strike partner Thierry Henry and his midfield teammates and his tactical awareness is always high.

“He is always inside and running in behind and creating,” Solli said. “He is a player with a lot of energy and you can see that and it affects our whole team. He puts pressure on their defenders every time he runs in behind them and wants to go into the box.”

In other words, he fits Backe’s system perfectly.

3. Killing It — In their last four games prior to Wednesday night, the Red Bulls had leads in each game, and conceded goals to settle for three ties and a loss during that stretch. New York have had a hard time killing games as they stake themselves to a lead and fail to close things down properly.

Against Toronto, the Red Bulls continued to hold a very high line against their opponent’s back line and kept constant pressure all over the field — even with a lead. Offensively, they strung together possession, making it impossible for Toronto to win the ball back and counterattack.

“I think most of the time we got a hold of the ball, our possession and the decision making was to go forward,” Backe said. “That was probably the key to winning this game.”

4. Momentum … Maybe — The Red Bulls are hoping that Wednesday night will be a catalyst for a midseason surge following their swoon in the months of May and June in which New York has dropped important points to contend for the Supporters' Shield.

“I think everyone is pleased and I think this will kickstart us again,” Rodgers said. “If you play well enough, there is no reason you cannot win every single game. I think this will kick start us.”

On Saturday, the Red Bulls host D.C. United, whom they beat earlier this season 4-0 on the road.

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer