HARRISON, N.J. – Three straight games, three straight wins, three straight shutouts. The Monday Gaffer looks at the latest in an impressive streak for the New York Red Bulls that leaves the club alone atop the Eastern Conference.
1. Henry’s Form – Thierry Henry was a bit quiet in New York’s 1-0 win over visiting Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, but only compared to his gaudy numbers of late. His motor was running all night, he earned a second assist on Luke Rodgers’ game-winner and his deft pass in the 13th minute set up the foul that led to Rafa Márquez’s penalty kick.
It wasn’t a huge performance statistically from Henry, but he played with confidence and opened space for his teammates with his constant movement into channels.
2. The Dreaded Spot – Usually a penalty kick is an almost automatic goal, but not for the Red Bulls. Márquez’s miss was the second in as many chances this season for the Red Bulls. Thierry Henry missed the club’s only other chance from the spot in the season opener against Seattle when Kasey Keller steered his shot wide back on March 19.
On the Saturday night effort, Márquez stutter-stepped in his approach and then sent a weak shot to Jimmy Nielsen’s right side, which the Sporting goalkeeper easily handled.
“I took a few steps toward the ball, and the goalkeeper usually moves, and I was waiting for that to happen,” Márquez said. “I put it as far into the corner as possible but the goalkeeper didn’t move, and actually made a good save.”
3. De Ro’s Emergence – It was perhaps the best match for Dwayne De Rosario since he arrived in mid-April via a trade from Toronto FC. De Rosario did well in the midfield, spraying the ball wide and holding possession well, a total and complete performance.
“I think every game slowly, there’s more and more improvement, more understanding of each other,” De Rosario said.
If the Canadian international can continue to assimilate into the Red Bulls attack, it could be a good sign for the club’s Supporters' Shield ambitions. De Rosario drew the foul on the penalty kick and then nearly scored midway through the first half on a distance shot that Nielsen acrobatically saved.
4. Missing Teemu – After a relatively quiet first half, midfield linchpin Teemu Tainio was subbed out for what head coach Hans Backe called a groin injury. Without Tainio’s organization and calming presence on the ball, the Red Bulls conceded territory to Sporting in the second half as the visitors looked to equalize.
Backe hailed Tainio as the best signing in the league this year, and without the Finnish international in the lineup in the second half, Backe said the Red Bulls “struggled to get a hold of the ball.” Tainio’s absence was noted by his teammates, too.
“He’s a very important piece of the team,” Márquez said. “He is the one that balances the entire squad on the field so when he is not around, we always miss him."
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer