HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls gave their fans a real treat in their home opener, and handed the Colorado Rapids their first loss of the season in the process.
Two goals in the first six minutes paved the way for the hosts, as they recorded their first win of the season with a 4-1 victory over Colorado in front of 21,024 fans at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Thierry Henry was instrumental in New York’s win, scoring the first of his two goals on the day in the third minute and setting up the first of two Kenny Cooper goals three minutes later.
Missing top midfielders Jeff Larentowicz (suspended) and Pablo Mastroeni (injured), the Rapids’ makeshift midfield was unable to contain the Red Bulls for extended stretches of play.
That proved costly as Henry got the Red Bulls off to a dream start by getting on the end of a bad back pass from Rapids midfielder Ross LaBauex, then racing in on goal before tucking a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the third minute.
Before Colorado could even settle in and think of an equalizer, New York doubled their lead through a goal from Cooper in the sixth minute. Henry began the scoring sequence when he dished off a pass to Cooper, who fired a low shot to the far post for his second goal of the season.
The Red Bulls began the second half in similar fashion. Wilman Conde took a free kick from just inside the New York half and found a streaking Henry, who beat a halfhearted Colorado trap. The Red Bulls captain then produced a signature goal, opening his hips and curling a right-footer to the back post to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
The Rapids prevented a shutout and denied rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara his first clean sheet as a pro in the 77th minute. Rafa Márquez, who made his season debut, was stripped of the ball by Jaime Castrillón, who then dished off to Omar Cummings. The Jamaican forward raced in on goal, but before the Red Bulls center backs could close him down he curled a beautiful shot over Meara to spoil the shutout.
The Red Bulls responded with another goal in the 89th minute. Left back Roy Miller dribbled into the penalty area and unleashed a low cross to the near post, where Cooper got a touch from two yards out.
Henry nearly added another goal in stoppage time when he raced in on goal and fired a low shot, but Pickens denied him a hat trick by gobbling up the ball.
The 1-2-0 Red Bulls will next face the expansion Montral Impact at Red Bull Arena on March 31. The 2-1-0 Rapids return home to take on the Chicago Fire on April 1.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com
HIGHLIGHTS: NY vs COL