Thierry Henry fired the New York Red Bulls to a 2-1 win against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night to stay in Major League Soccer play-off contention.
As the Supporters’ Shield holders and the current MLS Cup champions met, so too did the division’s two most prolific forwards, and Bradley Wright-Phillips traded goals with Dom Dwyer. However, it was Henry’s sublime intervention that separated the sides.
While the result at Red Bull Arena sees Mike Petke’s men move up to fifth in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards have now lost four on the bounce.
The first notable action of the match was a particularly controversial one. Wright-Phillips appeared to run through ahead of Matt Besler, and when the pair tangled inside the area, referee Hilario Grajeda took his time before pointing to the spot. Though Sporting’s captain bizarrely wasn’t dismissed, the home forward kept his cool and dispatched the penalty.
Besler was enduring a torrid spell, and Wright-Phillips might have done better after pouncing on another error as the United States centre-back failed to find defensive partner Aurelien Collin.
Dwyer then had a chance to prove his own attacking prowess, as he beat the Metrostars offside trap, but the former Norwich City trainee screwed his shot horribly over the cross-bar.
Following yet more justified incredulity at an unpunished rash challenge from Besler, Henry raced beyond Collin, curling wide of the far post. Back at the other end, Dwyer had another opportunity when Luis Robles’ punch fell at his feet, but Chris Duvall was well positioned to hack away from the goal-line.
Kansas City continued to press, and in first half stoppage-time, Dwyer again timed his run perfectly. However, his low finish was turned over by Robles, and his pain was quickly heightened by a wild Ibrahim Sekagya boot as Grajeda sent the two teams back to their dressing rooms.
While the Wizards looked bright at the beginning of the second period, Henry soon put his unique stamp on the game. Collecting the ball on the left, the Frenchman cut inside and blitzed a fabulous strike into the top corner with Andy Gruenebaum helpless.
But this time, the response was instant. Graham Zusi delivered to the back post, where Seth Sinovic nodded down for Dwyer to acrobatically steer into the net.
When the Red Bulls eventually attacked again, Sinovic was lucky not to score an own-goal with a wayward backwards header, and the same player managed a similar effort at the opposite end of the field.
However, late pressure wasn’t enough to force an equaliser, and New York collected all three points.