HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls are doing just fine, thank you.
Luke Rodgers scored before the break and Thierry Henry added a nifty backpost finish off a feed from Rafa Márquez for insurance as the Red Bulls scored a 2-0 win over the visiting LA Galaxy on Tuesday at Red Bull Arena.
The win was the third in five games for the suddenly resurgent Red Bulls (9-7-16), who vaulted into the ninth playoff spot and now trail first-place Sporting Kansas City by just two points in the Eastern Conference standings.
The loss wasn’t entirely disheartening for the Galaxy (18-4-10), although they did miss out on the chance to clinch their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield. The club played without both Landon Donovan (strained right quad) and Robbie Keane (international call-up), but surprisingly struggled to get enough from their plug-in players to get the win.
Instead, the highlights belonged to the Red Bulls, who picked up their third shutout in five games and leaned on their prolific pairing up top to get the win.
Rodgers finished off the first goal in the 32nd minute from point-blank range after right back Jan Gunnar Solli did the dirty work inside the LA box. Solli rose above Galaxy defender Frankie Hejduk on Joel Lindpere’s corner kick and snapped a header off the gloves of Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and Rodgers promptly finished off the rebound.
The goal was the ninth of the season for Rodgers, who has scored in all three of New York’s wins in the past month. His return from a painful heel injury has been one of the biggest catalysts for the club’s recent revival, and he was pesky much of the night against one the league’s best back lines.
Rodgers nearly stuck again in the 38th minute after the Red Bulls surged forward after a turnover from LA’s David Beckham. Lindpere fed a ball into the box to Henry, who in turn gifted a pass to Rodgers, but the stocky striker thumped a wide-open shot off the far post.
Not to be outdone, Henry, who moved into a tie in the Golden Boot race with D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario with his 14th goal of the season, finished off a breakaway chance in the 58th minute with a shot that gently caromed off the back post and in after Ricketts couldn’t close off the angle.
The assist belonged to Márquez, who started his second straight match in the midfield after his one-game suspension for calling out his teammates on the back line last month. He looked entirely comfortable drifting a gorgeous pass from just beyond midfield that Henry latched onto in stride, giving Márquez his fifth assist of the season.
Henry nearly added a second goal in the 80th minute after another stunning Beckham turnover, but Henry’s breakaway shot thumped off the far post and out of harm’s way.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, clearly lacked the punch in the final third without Keane, often times using Beckham or a pesky Paulo Cardozo to build up from the midfield before the chances fizzled at the end. The best chance of the first half fell on the foot of Chad Barrett, who popped a shot over the bar in the 27th minute after left back Todd Dunivant neatly skipped his cross into the box.
But the chances were few and far between on the night for LA, who went much of the game with Barrett and Miguel López carrying the load up top. Barrett also had his team’s best scoring chance of the second half, but his header off a Beckham corner kick skied harmlessly into the stands, leaving Barrett to sink his face into his hands on a night when simply not enough fell in the Galaxy’s favor.
The Galaxy still lead the race for the Supporters’ Shield by seven points over the Seattle Sounders, who need LA to collapse over their last two games in order to make it interesting.
The loss was the Galaxy’s first in nine games this season without Donovan, who will also miss two international friendlies for the US national team next week due to the injury he suffered last Saturday.
The Red Bulls return to action at Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 15, while the Galaxy return to league play on Oct. 16 vs. Chivas USA.
NY -- Luke Rodgers 9 (unassisted) 32
NY -- Thierry Henry 14 (Rafael Marquez 5) 59
LA -- Frankie Hejduk (caution; Reckless Foul) 13
NY -- Joel Lindpere (caution; Handball) 34
LA -- A.J. DeLaGarza (caution; Reckless Foul) 47+
LA Galaxy -- Donovan Ricketts, Frankie Hejduk (Bryan Jordan 46), Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant, Michael Stephens, David Beckham, Juninho (Adam Cristman 71), Paolo Cardozo, Miguel Lopez (Hector Jimenez 65), Chad Barrett.
Substitutes Not Used: Dan Keat, Jovan Kirovski, Dasan Robinson, Josh Saunders.
New York Red Bulls -- Frank Rost, Jan Gunnar Solli, Stephen Keel, Tim Ream, Roy Miller, Dane Richards (Mehdi Ballouchy 89), Rafael Marquez (Dax McCarty 82), Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere, Luke Rodgers, Thierry Henry.
Substitutes Not Used: Juan Agudelo, Stephane Auvray, Carlos Mendes, Alex Horwath.
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: Corey Rockwell; Frank Anderson
4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivero
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 63 degrees