It wasn't a statement performance, but it was a welcome result nonetheless. The New York Red Bulls started their grueling September with a crucial 2-1 win at home over the 2013 MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. The win, on the backs of goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry, pushes New York back above the red line in the Eastern Conference standings. Dom Dwyer scored the lone goal for the visitors.

FULL HIGHLIGHTS

MATCH NOTES

A new formation paid off. Mike Petke has stuck with the traditional 4-4-2 since the middle of last year. But Saturday there was a noticeable switch, with the team effectively playing the somewhat trendy 4-2-3-1. Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty were put on duty to protect the defensive line, while Thierry Henry was asked to play out wide left, with Peguy Luyindula pulling the strings in a central attacking midfield role.

The payoff: a strong team defensive performance. Kansas City would attempt to score 17 times, but only three shots were marked as on-target.

Bradley Wright-Phillips continues to edge closer to the league scoring record. With a nice through ball from Thierry Henry in the ninth minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips streaked into the box and was cut down by defender Matt Besler. A penalty was awarded, although Besler was not sent off for denial of a goal scoring opportunity. BWP cooly converted the penalty to open the scoring, giving him his 21st goal of the season. He needs six more goals in the eight remaining league games to tie the MLS single season scoring record.

We're going to miss Henry when he's gone. His decision on retirement still up in the air, we can't be sure whether or not this is Thierry Henry's last year with the Red Bulls. Regardless of when he decides to hang up his boots, we're going to miss getting to see ridiculous goals like this:

There was another "talk" between Henry and Petke earlier in the week. Fans may remember a fight and a "talk" between coach and captain that seemed to spark the club's late 2013 rally that helped them win the Supporters' Shield. So when Mike Petke mentioned in his post-match press conference that he had another "talk" with the French legend, eyebrows went up:

"I had a long talk with Thierry earlier in the week. Thierry, true to who he is as a person and a captain, he sought me out and we had a long conversation. Together we rededicated ourselves and tried to figure some stuff out. I told him before you showed what a captain is by coming to me earlier in the week and speaking about some things. Now you’re going to show what a captain is on the field and he did. He led the team, he put tireless work in and he capped it off with a Goal of the Year nomination for sure. Everybody tonight had the right mentality. We talked about commitment and discipline before the game. Those two words and I think both of them were evident out there."

Petke, then realizing that he may have said too much, tried to walk it back:

"My captain is my captain. Coaches and captains talk all the time. I don’t want that to be in the headlines tomorrow. If it is and things get blown out of proportion then the next press conference I have is going to be yes and no answers. I know you guys need stories. I made it a point to say that as a (coach), I had a talk with my captain and he did what a captain should do and he did what a captain should do tonight."

What happened to Sporting KC? Four losses in a row for the defending champions is a tough pill to swallow. Their defense was frequently in shambles, and while they're still a lock for the play-offs, they're not looking as mighty as they once have.

LOOKING AHEAD

September's death march continues with D.C. United coming to town on Wednesday. Not only are full points needed to keep moving up the table, but pride is on the line. The Red Bulls have already suffered two losses at RFK Stadium this season, and a straight sweep by their biggest rivals would be embarrassing. (DC has swept NY in regular season play twice before, in 1999 and 2009.)

POST-MATCH REACTIONS

Coach Mike Petke on the formation change: "At the end of the day or early in the week, the staff sat down and said who are our four best attacking players? And we pinpointed those best four and we put them in positions we thought that they could hurt. That’s why Dax and Eric’s whole role tonight was to sit home and be the link offensively from one side to the other, and defensively clog it up and do the dirty work. You add an overlapping fullback and you have five guys going forward that are dangerous. Thierry’s no stranger to playing out on the left and you could argue almost every game this year he winds up there large chunks of the time. He’s comfortable there. So we basically started him there and as always with Thierry that’s a starting point and we want him to go wherever he’s comfortable to go because he can make a difference. But he really did a good job tonight sitting out there. He was a true captain tonight."

Lloyd Sam on whether the performance was really that different than usual: "Yeah we held up but on another day we could have lost that same game. There wasn’t much difference from what we normally do. We haven’t been playing that bad but we give away goals a bit easy. Right before half time Dwyer had a chance to score and he had another chance. It’s like a lot of our games, but we didn’t play bad today we just give chances up, so that’s a problem and we haven’t gotten it right still."

Dax McCarty on emotions after the win: "It's a big relief. We needed it. Teams are picking up points all around us. Seems like we're the team that's kind of -- we control our own destiny. Five games at home, three on the road. If we win all our home games, I think we'll be all right. Sporting Kansas City, on a little slide right now, still one of the best teams in the league. They were good tonight. I thought they played very well. I thought that we stepped up and that we worked for each other, that we defended for each other. Thought we deserved a shutout. Luis made two or three spectacular saves, but that's what he's there for."

Dax on playing a more defensive role: "I'm used to it. I play a little more defense usually anyways, but that was something we worked on a lot in training, Eric and I. Just the idea is to give our back four a little bit more protection. We've been leaking really, really soft goals, and it's been frustrating to leak those soft goals because we don't feel like we're playing too bad. We feel like we're playing alright, we're just like a charity. We're just giving goals away. It's not acceptable - it's something we eliminated last year, and now this year it seems like you can expect us to give a team a goal once a game, always. Tonight was better."

Thierry Henry on the match: "Like I said to you, I’m going to leave it tonight at we defended well as a team. Once you do that, you can win games. All the other times, we give them too much, too many opportunities, but at least you know when you battle, luck goes your way and I guess that’s what happened tonight. We had some chances too, but tonight I will leave it to, when you work hard as a team, then you can eventually win a game. I hope that we didn’t leave it too late to be able to make the playoffs. We’re on a good path, but let’s not get too overexcited or so about the win tonight because we have a difficult game against D.C., but I will leave it to that."

Next Match: Wednesday, September 10th 8:00 PM, vs DC United (TV: ESPN2)