New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry (14) in action during the MLS game between the New York Red Bulls and the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara CA. San Jose defeated New York 2-1.
Cal Sport Media via AP Images, file

New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke seems to have made his points and has the ball rolling again at Red Bulls Arena. After recent strained relations with French star Thierry Henry and forward Fabian Espindola, the pair turned in solid performances to lead the team to a 2-0 win over Toronto FC (4-14-11, 23 pts.) last Saturday night at Red Bull Arena. The win puts the Red Bulls (14-9-6, 48 pts,) in sole possession of first place in the MLS Eastern Conference at the most opportune time – with only five games left in the regular season.

In a very competitive game, which saw Toronto FC put in a good performance despite its poor record and lost chance at the playoffs, the Red Bulls were more purposeful and seemed aware that the play-offs are just around the corner. The locals took care of business as Henry scored in the 32nd minute off a cross from midfielder Dax McCarty, who received an earlier pass from midfielder Michael Bustamante, then Espindola came up with the insurance goal in the 80th minute when the forward capitalized on a Toronto defensive error.

Pekte also seems to have shaken up the team somewhat and brought to life a competitive spirit within the squad. He hasn’t hesitated to use his new and younger players, recently calling on midfield Lloyd Sam for starts in midfield, using MLS newcomer forward Bradley Wright-Phillips and last Saturday giving Bustamante his first MLS start. The Red Bulls now will look to continue their winning ways when they host Dallas FC on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 5:00 p.m.

Petke was pleased with Saturday’s outcome. “I don’t think it was pretty,” said Petke. “But at the end of the day, we’ll take the points. You can see the overall attitude of this team has changed, the willingness to jump on board. Especially Thierry. It’s great to see him score goals two weeks in a row. That’s phenomenal.”

In other MLS games last weekend, thanks to Ricardo Clark’s goal in the 53rd minute, the Houston Dynamo (11-10-7) beat the Philadelphia Union (10-10-9), 1-0, to end a four game winless streak. The Seattle Sounders continued its winning ways after a slow start to the season by topping Real Salt Lake, 2-0, for its fifth straight win. Obafemi Martins, voted player-of-the-week, scored three minutes into the match and speedy Lamar Neagle added a second goal in the 38th minute. The win puts the once-struggling Sounders (15-8-4) atop the Western Conference. The Sounders’ 49 points leads the entire league.

DC United (3-19-6) got a rare draw, a 2-2 result against the Los Angeles Galaxy (13-10-5); DC’s Kyle Porter scored in the 84th minute to help his team draw, and Chris Pontius had D.C. United’s first goal. Michael Stephens and Robbie Keane scored for Los Angeles; the tally was Keane’s team-leading 13th goal. The Columbus Crew (10-14-5) defeated the Montreal Impact (13-7-6), 2-1, behind second half goals from Chad Marshall and Dominic Oduro. Marco Di Vaio, the MLS scoring leader with 18 goals, scored for Montreal in the 23rd minute, but Columbus rallied for the win.

The Chicago Fire (11-11-6) got past the New England Revolution (10-11-7), 3-2, on Alex’s game winner after the score was deadlocked at 2-2. Juan Luis Anangono and Mike Magee also scored for Chicago. The Colorado Rapids (12-8-9) defeated FC Dallas, 2-1, when Vicente Sanchez scored twice to rally the team. David Ferreira scored for Dallas (10-8-10). Chivas USA and the Portland Timbers played to a 1-1 draw; Brian de la Fuente tallied for Chivas (6-15-8) and Diego Valeri scored for Portland (10-5-13). Another draw was in the works when the San Jose Earthquakes (10-11-8) and the Vancouver Whitecaps (10-10-8) played goalless.

New York Red Bulls’ Fabian Espindola, left, and San Jose Earthquakes’ Sam Cronin fight for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game Sunday, March 10, 2013, in Santa Clara, Calif.
AP Photo/Ben Margot, file

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