HARRISON, N.J. – The Red Bulls put forth perhaps their most well-rounded performance of the entire season on Tuesday night, defending well and attacking in numbers to claim a vital 2-0 win against league-leading LA Galaxy.
“Over 90 minutes, this has probably been the best, well-balanced game from us,” praised Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. “I can’t really remember our first seven games where we played really well before the Gold Cup. I think we only conceded two goals since seven games and picked up a number of wins, but from the Gold Cup and now, this was definitely the most balanced game.”
New York struggled early in the year to find the form they showed against LA. In the season’s opening two months, the Red Bulls would hold possession for long stretches, frequently controlling the ball 60 percent of the match. But all that possession led to frustration as New York couldn’t turn time on the ball into quality scoring chances.
But against the Galaxy, those struggles looked to be a thing of the past.
The Red Bulls’ attack was strong and the finishing was deadly. New York enjoyed nearly 57 percent of the possession against LA, and Luke Rodgers’ goal in the 31st minute and Thierry Henry’s tally on the hour mark showed a side unafraid to take chances and pull the trigger in the final third.
And there could have been more had Rodgers and Henry each not smacked the upright.
“I thought we had [balance] at the beginning of the season, somehow it went away,” said Henry after the match. “Hopefully it’s not too late. It’s coming back. It’s a vital three points. It was vital to win the game in hand that we had, so that’s done.”
For New York, a big key to winning the match was the build-up from the back. The defense, which rather than prolong possession as they did during the team’s rut, played long balls from deep for a quick counterattack. Twice in the first half, center back Tim Ream had long balls to Henry and Rodgers that set up dangerous scoring opportunities.
“We were definitely smart out of the back with the ball. We made good decisions,” Ream said. “When we had to hoof it long, we hoofed it long, just moved the team. Definitely a better balance for the most part.”
Now in the ninth spot in the race for the playoffs – and just two points away from Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City – the Red Bulls will hope that the balance which they had so long yearned for is here to stay.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer