Amid recent rumors of the New York Red Bulls being offered for sale and the non-renewal of Frenchman Thierry Henry’s contract for next season, the former French international rose to the occasion and scored his 10th goal of the season to give the New York Red Bulls a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
The win, coupled with a Columbus Crew loss, helped the Red Bulls (11-9-11, 44 pts.) to enhance its MLS play-off position as it moved from the fifth and final spot to the fourth position in the Eastern Conference. Columbus (11-10-10, 43), which lost a 2-1 decision to the New England Revolution last weekend, is now in that fifth spot, only a point behind New York with a match-up between the teams at Red Bull Arena (Oct. 19) looming.
DC United (15-9-7, 52 pts.) leads the Eastern Conference and has secured a play-off berth, New England (15-13-3-, 48) is in second and Sporting Kansas City (13-11-7, 46) in third. New York is only four points ahead of its next MLS foe, sixth-place Toronto FC, which visits Red Bull Arena Saturday, Oct. 11 for a 7:00 p.m. game, so the race is still on. In the last 28 games, when Henry has scored for New York, the team won.
In the Houston matchup, more than 21,000 fans saw Henry score in the 47th minute when he latched onto a Lloyd Sam cross as the ball scuttled cross the Houston goal undisturbed. The goalless first half saw New York dominate the game, but MLS leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips of the Red Bulls did not capitalize on his team’s good play; he missed several chances, and in the second half as well, to close in on the regular season goal-scoring record of 27 tallies, set by Roy Lassiter in 1996 with the Tampa Bay Rowdies; Wright Phillips is stuck on 24 goals the past two games. He also failed to score last weekend when New York suffered a 4-0 loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy.
DC made a remarkable turnaround this year. Last season DC United finished with the worst record in MLS (3-24-7, 16 pts.), now the men at RFK Stadium sit atop the Eastern Conference and are the first in the East to secure a playoff berth. DC earned that berth with a goalless draw against Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium in DC last Friday night. U.S. national goalkeeper Bill Hamid recorded his MLS-leading 10th shutout of the season to secure the draw. He is a shutout short of tying the club record of 11 set by Nick Rimando in 2005.
Also in the Eastern Conference, host Philadelphia Union and the Chicago Fire played to a 1-1 draw at PPL Park last Thursday night when Amobi Okugo scored for the Union and Robert Earnshaw got the equalizer for the Fire, which set an MLS record for ties in a single season with 17. Chicago also tied Montreal during the week. New England got a goal from recently-signed Jermaine Jones, his second in the last two games, to defeat Columbus. Lee Nguyen also scored for the Revs and Ethan Finlay tallied for the Crew.
In the Western Conference, Seattle Sounders defeated the Colorado Rapids, 4-1, to maintain its hold at the top of the Conference. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, with two goals, carried the Sounders; Marco Papa also scored for Seattle and Deshorn Brown notched a goal for the host Rapids. Chivas USA upset Real Salt Lake, 1-0, and ended a 12-match winless streak.
Host Los Angeles Galaxy beat Toronto FC, 3-0; Robbie Keane scored twice and Alan Gordon once to give the Galaxy victory. Former U. S. international Landon Donovan, who will play his farewell game for the national team against Ecuador on Friday night in Harford, Connecticut, recorded his 136th assist and past Steve Ralston for the MLS all-time record.
Host Vancouver Whitecaps knocked off F C Dallas, 2-0, behind two goals from Sebastian Fernandez at BC Place; the win kept the Whitecaps in the fifth and final playoff spot in the West. The Portland Timbers topped the San Jose Earthquakes, 2-1. Chris Wondolowski gave San Jose the lead, but Rodney Wallace scored twice to give the Portland victory.
INTERNATIONALS AT RED BULL ARENA
Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Canada will feature in friendly matches at Red Bull Arena on Friday, Oct. 10 and Tuesday, Oct. 14. Colombia will open up the series on Friday at 8:00 p.m. when it faces El Salvador. On Tuesday, Ecuador will play El Salvador at 7:00 p.m. and Colombia faces Canada in the nightcap.