UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Stopping Toronto FC forward Robert Earnshaw has proven a difficult task for teams this season, but the New York Red Bulls are hoping some of their players’ familiarity with him will help them achieve that this weekend.
The Red Bulls are set for a visit to Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday (2 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in the US) and negating Earnshaw, who has scored a league-second-best five goals this season, is near the top of the things they need to do if they are to grab a result in a second consecutive game for the first time this season.
New York’s defense has struggled with consistency all year, but what is working in their favor is that their two Designated Players, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, have firsthand knowledge of how the Welsh forward likes to play. Henry and Cahill both saw Earnshaw play over in England in the earlier years of their careers, and they will surely be giving their teammates pointers on how to try and nullify the TFC striker.
“I know him personally, I know what he’s done in the Championship and during his time in the Premiership, as well,” Cahill told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “He’s a very good footballer with a good footballing brain. But in and around the area, [with] half a yard snapshots, he’s really trying to catch the ‘keeper flat-footed and slot them to the bottom corners, but also an opportunist.”
That he is. In his first seven games with Toronto since joining the club from Cardiff City, Earnshaw has showcased a habit of turning nothing into something. Most notably for Henry were Earnshaw’s two tallies against Sporting Kansas City last month, which inspired Toronto FC to their only win of the regular season thus far.
Still, Earnshaw’s nose for goal and ability to pounce on mistakes are nothing new to Henry, and they are why the Red Bulls captain is emphasizing that being smart in possession is equally as important as keeping tabs on the veteran forward.
“You miss a pass or you miss something or you let the ball bounce and you don’t attack it before him, he will punish you,” said Henry. “That’s what he does best. I’ve played against him [in the Premiership], I saw him play so many times, he’s the type of striker that you might not see him a lot in the game but at the end you might see his name quite often on the scoresheet.
“We have to be careful. Good player, good striker. Hopefully he’s going to be able to score goals but not against us.”