When the New York Red Bulls started 2013 with four winless games, it was hard to be optimistic about the season that was to come. Yet thanks to Sunday's 1-0 win over FC Dallas, the team now finds itself in first place overall in MLS with four matches to play. Meanwhile, the Cosmos notched a 2-0 win on the road over their old rivals, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The Red Bulls match itself was a slog, with both sides having scoring chances go to waste and plenty of fouls getting called. The Red Bulls looked the slightly better side thanks to their defense, but only could get a single shot on target the entire match. Bradley Wright-Phillips looked to have a solid chance on goal in the first half but grabbed his hamstring and fell to the ground as he tried to break into the box.
The game would be won thanks to a tragically beautiful own goal by Dallas midfielder Erick. With NY pressing forward, Kosuke Kimura crossed the ball high over to Jonny Steele. Steele one-timed a low cross back in front of the goal. With no real pressure from the home side, Erick slid into the ball and put it into the roof of his own net. You can watch the sheer majesty of Erick's auto-golazo below; watch for the moment where he realizes what he's about to do and hates himself immediately for it:
We should also take a moment to reflect on Thierry Henry - not because he had a terribly good game, but because he seems to have fully accepted his role as a provocateur. Last week, as he again struck a pose to celebrate a goal, we reflected that "Henrying" needed to take off as a thing - and sure enough, it did. On Sunday, he may not have scored, but he still found a way to leave an impression on the match. As the match drew to a close, Henry was knocked down and won a free kick - but he immediately bounced up and performed an odd dance. A shuffle? A wiggle? God forbid, an attempt at a twerk? We're not sure. You make the call:
"This is a game perhaps we lose the last couple years," said coach Mike Petke after the match, "and time and again this year we're showing these guys have heart. I thought we came out, as far as soccer wise, we came out in the beginning of the game exactly how we wanted to. We were energetic, we put them under pressure, we had many opportunities on goal and I was happy with the way we played. Made a couple adjustments at half time and the second half was an exciting half of soccer I thought and a very great goal."
The win pushes RBNY to 15-9-6, good for 51 points, the best point total in the league. We should put an asterisk by that, as Seattle, Kansas City, and Montreal all have games in hand. So if the Red Bulls want the Supporters' Shield (and they should), they'll need to make the most out of next week's road game in Seattle. The Sounders' recent form (they've won 8 of their last 10) will be tough to stifle in front of their notoriously huge home crowds. Their turf puts question marks over both Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, as lingering injuries have kept them off turf in the past - although missing a game of this magnitude may leave supporters restless. It will be a big test for the consistency that Mike Petke is seeking to demonstrate.
In the NASL, the Cosmos continued their stint at the top of that table with a 2-0 road victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Diomar Díaz scored both goals in the first half. The Cosmos saw their fourth red card of the year, this time going to Sebastian Guenzatti (his second this season), but it came late enough that the Strikers were unable to capitalize. The win pushes the Cosmos to 15 points; they will host the Tampa Bay Rowdies at home next Sunday.