Antibiotics is “one hell of a drug,” as the great musician Rick James would most likely comment. After suffering a “24 hour fever” the day before, English striker Bradley Wright-Phillips musingly credited the medication for his three goals in the New York Red Bulls’ 4-0 rout of the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night in Red Bull Arena.
The result brings head coach Mike Petke’s team to a 2-2-4 record, which means New York reached the coveted .500 average Americans obsess about. The Englishman’s hat trick marks his fifth goal against Houston in four appearances and occurred after reports were confirmed that he missed the very last practice due to illness. Thierry Henry was the other goalscorer.
Starting lineup: Luis Robles; Kosuke Kimura, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, Roy Miller; Lloyd Sam, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander; Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips.
A high-octave, offensive attack from the opening whistle gave witness to the first goal in only the 12 minute. On the right sideline, Lloyd Sam cut inside and played a ball to Dax McCarty who strayed forward into a pocket of space. The defensive midfielder’s one-time outlet pass to Kosuke Kimura on the wing, gave the Japanese right back enough time to pick out Henry making a slicing run in-between the defense. With time and space in the box, the Frenchman’s driven cross picked out Wright-Phillips for a sliding finish past Dynamo goalkeeper, Tally Hall.
Approximately 10 minutes later, New York doubled their lead. Another Henry through ball split to Houston right back, Warren Creavalle, and found Roy Miller venturing forward. A smart decision to slide into the challenge allowed the Costa Rica left back to simultaneously knock out Creavalle and collect the ball in space. Wright-Phillips met his low cross at the near post with a perfect left-foot finish to the far-post.
With a 54.4 percent possession advantage, the Red Bulls almost ended the contest in the 36 minute. Consistently dangerous on the night, Wright-Phillips nearly completed a first half hat-trick after crisp and clean combination between Eric Alexander and Henry on the left side of the 18. Henry’s quick return pass to the Englishman at the top of the box led to a hard near-post shot that Hall parried away.
Houston’s best opportunity came at the end of the first half. Positive play from forward Will Bruin on the right saw him cross to his partner Giles Barnes running toward the near-post. The ball deflected to an open Andrew Driver around the penalty spot, but his right-footed effort skied over the bar.
Despite the plentiful of attacking plays, New York was not without its mistakes on the defensive side. The first of many glaring mistakes from the back-line happened from the start of the second period. A giveaway straight from the Red Bulls’ kickoff found the feet of Barnes approximately 30 yards from goal. His through ball to Bruin inside the box, gave the striker a chance to shoot across goal, however it clipped Luis Robles’s, the star goalkeeper, right heel.
On the ensuing corner, Houston central defender, Jermaine Taylor, headed the ball across goal. Ricardo Clark redirected the ball on goal from six yards out. Luckily for New York, Kimura cleared a certain goal off the line.
Another New York mistake, this time by stalwart defender, Jamison Olave, gave Barnes a similar chance at goal in the 50 minute. Instead of passing to Bruin, he chose to shoot, which turned out to be a poor choice, as he shot wide.
The Red Bulls’ offensive threat finally paid off again on the scoreline in the 65 minute. Henry, in a central position close to goal, feeds a through ball to Wright-Phillip’s run to the right. Hall parried his subsequent cross away, unfortunately, to the feet of a late, casual run by Henry. He slotted home for 3-0.
After multiple opportunities to finish his hat-trick, Wright-Phillips finally got the important, glossy third goal on a penalty kick, generously awarded to him by Henry (or obviously because Henry rarely took PK’s since 2012). In the 84 minute, substitute Ruben Bover thought he scored New York’s fourth and his first goal ever before realizing the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Henry in the box by Tony Cascio.
Wright-Phillips calmly converted the spot-kick with a side-foot finish to Hall’s right side. The scoreline read 4-0, and New York emphatically recorded their second win of the season. Hopefully, they can carry the momentum of a two game winning-streak into Columbus on Saturday.
- Newly positioned, left two-way winger, Eric Alexander, once again added a dangerous threat on the left side, and as a matter of fact, all over the field. Being right-footed, his tendency to cut inside allowed Miller to constantly overlap to great effect (second assist in two weeks since Alexander’s positional change). Also, what makes Alexander so special, and what is probably the reason Premier League veteran Tim Cahill singled him out as a play capable of playing in his former league, is his ability to read space on-and off-the-ball. In fact, what majority of Dynamo players struggled with in this match, was their inability to pass effectively in-between the opposing defense into pockets of space. When they did find the space, Houston failed miserably with the chances (well, Barnes was the major culprit). Alexander, on the other hand, took advantage with the time and space his perfect control affords to capitalize on the clearly dysfunctional Dynamo defense (the scoreline does not lie).
- The team’s first clean sheet of the season was deserved, but the defense was not flawless. Armando impressed in his first game back from suspension, however Kimura and Olave made multiple, almost costly mistakes. Petke’s needs his veteran defenders to fix their performance issues for their tough game on the road in Columbus.
- Wright-Phillips is arguably Henry’s best striking partner since Luke Rodgers in 2011. While Kenny Cooper’s 18 goals in 2012 were phenomenal, the current Seattle striker was often criticized by Henry for his overall play. Like Rodgers, Wright-Phillips is stereotyped as one type of player. Fans usually have the idea that the current English forward is just a poacher of goals, while the former English forward for New York was merely a “speed merchant.” However, like Rodgers did with some spectacular goals and assists, Wright-Phillips is demonstrating his ability to run the channels, combine as a target forward and take on his man, one versus one.
- Luyindula’s had the advantage in his match-up with opposite central midfielder, Ricardo Clark. This was illustrated in the 33 minute as the converted French play-maker tracked Clark into his own defensive corner. He expertly shielded the ball away from the former United States international and regained possession. Luyindula brings a defensive bite and nuance to his distribution functions for the team.