Saturday night saw both NYC soccer teams push their way into the top of their respective leagues with home victories. The Red Bulls took apart a hapless Toronto FC 2-0 to move three points clear in the MLS Eastern Conference, while the Cosmos earned a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United FC to edge their way atop the NASL Fall Standings.

The Red Bulls' victory over Toronto FC was not in any way a surprise - Toronto has consistently been one of the most under-performing teams in MLS since joining the league in 2007. New York came in riding a nine game unbeaten streak against TFC, outscoring them by 18 goals in that time. New York was still missing Tim Cahill (available on the bench but only as an emergency option, per Mike Petke), Brandon Barklage, Connor Lade, and Lloyd Sam who picked up a knock in training on Friday. Toronto was without the services of Richard Eckersley or Robert Earnshaw.

rbny-henry-celebration.jpgIt took just over a half an hour for the first goal to come. Michael Bustamante (who was making his first career MLS start) played a nice through ball to Dax McCarty, who crossed it to Thierry Henry for an easy tap-in. It was Henry's 40th career goal for RBNY, moving him past Clint Mathis into third place on the franchise's all-time leading goal-scorers list, just one behind Giovanni Savarese. For the second week in a row, Henry celebrated his goal with what we're going to call "the Henry" (he said after the match it didn't have a name), leaning against the goalpost with his eyes closed as though he just needed a moment. If "Henry-ing" (see photo at left) doesn't take off as a meme with people leaning on things everywhere by the end of the season, we're going to be a bit disappointed.

An incident in the second half would seal the fate of the game. When Kosuke Kimura went down on a challenge, referee Edvin Jurisevic blew his whistle for a free kick - but as play stopped, Toronto's Jonathan Osario blasted the ball into the side of Kimura's head. The Red Bulls (particularly Dax McCarty) immediately got into a shoving match with TFC, not wanting to see a teammate who was recently sidelined with a concussion take unnecessary contact. Bizarrely, Jurisevic did not issue an ejection or a caution to Osario, but it's a play that is sure to draw the attention of the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Here's video of the incident, which has been conveniently left out of the full highlights:

The Red Bulls were fuming and found their revenge on the resulting free kick. As the ball pinged around the box, it bounced away from goal to Fabian Espindola, who headed it from the end line back across goal. But like Lloyd Sam's "cross-shot" against DC United two weeks ago, this one flew over Joe Bendik and spun into the side of the goal, giving Espindola his eighth goal of the season.

With Montreal losing at home to Columbus and Sporting Kansas City idle, the win moves the Red Bulls (14-9-6, 48 points) three points clear atop the Eastern Conference, and one point behind current Supporters Shield leaders Seattle. Five game remains in the season for New York, and while their stated goal is a playoff spot (eight more points would guarantee one), eyes can't help drift to the Supporters Shield race. If New York can manage to take full points from red-hot Seattle on the road in two week's time, they could find themselves leading the field with only three games to play, and possible end this franchise's allergy to silverware.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before the trip to Seattle, they will have to down FC Dallas at home next Sunday (5PM, MSG/UniMas). Kenny Cooper will return to Red Bull Arena for his only visit this season, and Dallas are fighting to get above the "red line" in the West and back into playoff position. Dallas will be a good test for the Red Bulls' new-found defensive shape and team attitude as the stretch run continues.

Thierry Henry reflected on the performance after the match: "I felt that they started better than us. They are playing really well and created some kind of danger by crossing the ball a lot and having some corner kicks and some free kicks and stuff. I guess we just have to be patient a bit and then we scored on a great move. Great ball from Bustamante, great awareness from Dax, and I just had to put the ball in the back of the net. From there, it was kind of a weird first half. Then in the second half I thought we played a bit better, although it seemed like at times they maybe could have done something and then Espindola scored a great goal, I guess. But I mean who cares; at the end of the day the ball went into the back of the net. He needed that and we needed that particular one too. I think that one other good thing also was that we didn’t concede a goal. I know they had the ball at times, crossed the ball a lot, like I said before. They did not have a lot of clear-cut chances, if I can say."

Full highlights of the Red Bulls match:

The New York Cosmos won almost simultaneous with the Red Bulls, claiming a 1-0 victory on "Heroes Night" over the visiting Minnesota United FC. Sebastian Guenzatti's header in the 77th minute would be the game winner, but "the Hunters" may have been the story of the match. Hunter Freeman's cross lead to the goal, but a studs-up tackle shortly after the assist would see him sent off and. Hunter Gorskie provided late heroics as a goal-line clearance in the 83rd minute helped preserve the clean sheet for the Cosmos.

The victory moves the Cosmos (3-3-1, 12 points) into first place in the NASL with seven games to play. They travel to Fort Lauderdale to take on the Strikers next weekend.

Highlights of the Cosmos victory: