HARRISON, N.J. – With Saturday night’s 2-0 win over San Jose, the Red Bulls sit securely in second place in the Eastern Conference, 10 points ahead of Toronto in third and just four points behind Columbus for a share of the conference lead. The Red Bulls dominated the Earthquakes and could have run away with a much larger win.
Four things to take from Saturday’s match:
1. More gel than the Jersey shore
After struggling to get on the same page following the big-name signings of Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez, the Red Bulls seem to be putting it all together. Márquez has been instrumental in the midfield the past two matches, winning balls and starting the offense.
“Now we don’t just do directly to the forwards when we win the ball,” defender Tim Ream told MLSsoccer.com. “Now we can give it to Rafa and let him make the choices on the ball.”
On Saturday night, Henry was a constant threat and could easily have bagged a hat trick but instead settled for his first league goal. The Red Bulls attack is beginning to gel.
2. And there will be more where that came from
Yes, Henry scored a quality strike to open his MLS account [WATCH], but he has proven to be much more than just someone who scores goals. With the Frenchman on the field, the Red Bulls attack has become dynamic, even as they still figure out how to use the best striker of his generation in their offense. The team’s ball movement is crisp, and the attacking players are making hard runs for each other.
“We controlled the ball really well, and that’s important,” Márquez said. “I think the connection we made with Juan Pablo [Ángel] and Thierry and other members of the team was better than previous games.”
3. League's best flank player?
All of a sudden, Dane Richards might be the best winger in MLS. He’s using his pace in a smart fashion, he’s making solid decisions on the ball and he’s consistently hitting quality crosses. Against San Jose, he scored the game’s opening goal, which was his first of the season.
“Every time I drop, I have the option to get Dane on the channel," Ángel said. "You know that he is always a threat. When he gets on the run, and if you play a good ball in the channel, he’s always going to get it.
"There are very few defenders here that can catch him or sustain the pace with him. His goal was a very well-taken goal. During the 90 minutes, he was arguably one of our best players.”
4. The back line
It wasn’t the prettiest performance by the back four, but it was New York’s third clean sheet in their last five games. Still, head coach Hans Backe wasn’t pleased, citing the chances San Jose had to score.
With all the focus on the offense and trying to get the attack flowing, the defense must continue to maintain its compact shape as the offense pushes forward.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012