HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls talked all week about wanting to be unbeatable this season at Red Bull Arena, and they looked the part on Saturday.
Led by a hat trick from Thierry Henry – his first with the team – the Red Bulls won their second game of the season while keeping the Montreal Impact winless with a 5-2 victory in front of a crowd of 13,415 on a nippy afternoon.
The Impact began the game well, imposing their will in the midfield and creating chances through Sanna Nyassi against a Red Bulls team that did not look sharp.
That pressure paid off when Montreal opened the scoring in the 19th minute. Dane Richards attempted to clear the ball but barely got a touch, resulting in a bouncing ball that got away from Markus Holgersson. That bad touch from the center back allowed Nyassi to race onto the ball and fire home easily from close range.
New York equalized when Thierry Henry headed home a beautiful cross from Rafa Márquez nine minutes later. The Mexican international was given plenty of space on the right side and he picked out Henry, who made a well-timed run and jumped in front of Zarek Valentin to head home his third goal of the season.
A response from the visitors nearly came in the 35th minute. After Márquez turned the ball over at midfield, Bernardo Corradi was in on goal but RBNY 'keeper Ryan Meara cut off the angle and blocked the Italian’s ensuing shot.
The Red Bulls were not as lucky four minutes later. Justin Mapp received a pass from Felipe Martins on the left flank, and was allowed time and space to drive toward goal by Holgersson and Jan Gunnar Solli. Mapp made the best of the opportunity, firing a low shot that beat Meara to the near post.
With Impact looking for their first-ever victory, the pressure continued to pile on the Red Bulls, as Montreal benefited from Nyassi’s speed and constant runs up top.
But the hosts pulled level in first-half stoppage time after Matteo Ferrari was whistled for a foul on Dax McCarty inside the area. Kenny Cooper claimed the spot kick and scored his fourth goal of the season with a shot down the middle.
Cooper’s goal may have changed the momentum of the game, as the Red Bulls came out of the intermission with more command of the midfield. That was partially due to the arrival of Teemu Tainio, who entered for an injured Márquez (groin strain). That resulted in more chances on goal for New York, who took the lead in the 56th minute.
Valentin forced a pass that was picked off by McCarty, and the Red Bulls midfielder dribbled forward before passing the ball to Henry at the top of the box. Henry turned and fired a pinpoint shot to the near post past Donovan Ricketts, who was at full stretch.
New York built on their lead in the 72nd through a finish from substitute Mehdi Ballouchy that was set up by Henry. Solli whipped in a low cross from the right that the veteran striker flicked on to Ballouchy, who got a slight touch on the ball to put it in back of the net.
Henry then capped the scoring and recorded his first hat trick as a Red Bull a minute before the death, knocking in a rebound after Ricketts spilled a shot from Cooper.
The Red Bulls’ next game will see them travel to face the Columbus Crew on April 7, their first road match against an Eastern Conference team this season. The Impact have a shorter turnaround, as they play Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.
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