Bradley Wright-Phillips bagged a hat-trick as the New York Red Bulls beat the Houston Dynamo to record their second win in a week and ease their early season woes.
The former Manchester City man scored in the 12th, 24th and 85th minutes for the first three-goal salvo of his career in what was a comprehensive Red Bulls win.
Thierry Henry scored the other goal, as the Frenchman rolled back the years with a magical display.
Winners of the Supporters’ Shield last year, New York had endured a tough start to the new season, failing to triumph in any of their first six matches.
Mike Petke’s side finally tasted victory last week with a narrow 2-1 win over Philadelphia Union – the team that Houston drew with at the weekend.
The Dynamo have also been struggling as they are yet to register a win in April, after what had been a promising start to the campaign.
And it was the Red Bulls who started the better here, playing with renewed confidence and finding Wright-Phillips at the centre of everything.
The Englishman headed off-target early on, before opening the scoring when he poked the ball into the net from Henry’s drilled cross.
Wright-Phillips spurned another opportunity in the 21st minute, but did add his second three minutes later. The New York forward turned home Roy Miller’s cross after good work on the left from the Costa Rica international.
With the hosts posting their best performance of the season so far, opportunities continued to fall Wright-Phillips’ way, and he could have had a hat-trick before half-time. Only a brilliant one-handed save from Tally Hall denied the Englishman after he’d exchanged passes with the imperious Henry.
The Texans were badly missing the creativity of captain Brad Davies who sat out with an ankle injury, but had a great chance to peg the home side back in first-half stoppage time. Will Bruin’s centre found its way to Andrew Driver who blazed over when in a good position.
Houston were much improved after the break though, and straight from the kick-off the lively Giles Barnes fed Bruin, whose effort was saved well by Luis Robles.
The Dynamo had another opportunity in the 51st minute, with Barnes firing inches wide after a mistake from Jamison Olave.
As New York looked to regain a foothold in the game, Wright-Phillips was again denied a chance to take the match-ball – Hall saving well for a second time.
But it was game-over in the 65th minute when Henry converted a rebound after the Dynamo goalkeeper could only parry an angled drive from the former French international’s strike-partner.
The ex-Arsenal man then slipped in Jonny Steele, but the winger dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Omar Cummings, who scored the crucial goal in last year’s play-off game, tried to net a consolation for the visitors in the 82nd minute, but his tame shot was saved at full-stretch by Robles.
There was time however for New York to add another. Substitute Ruben Bover thought he’d scored, but the referee brought play back to an earlier foul on Henry and awarded a penalty.
The Red Bulls captain allowed Wright-Phillips to take the spot-kick, and he made no mistake to secure his hat-trick.
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