What is it about playing against the Columbus Crew that fires up Thierry Henry? Is he put off by their yellow and black color scheme? Does the use of the word "massive" in their marketing piss him off? Whatever the reason, Thierry Henry schooled the Crew with two spectacular goals and an assist—as he did back in April—leading the Red Bulls to a 3-1 victory.
As has become an recurring theme throughout 2012, the Red Bulls fell behind before most of the crowd was in their seats. The Crew's attack swept down the field in just two minutes in, and even with all defenders back, Jairo Arrieta was able to find Milovan Mirosevic in traffic for an easy tap in. It was the 10th goal New York has given up in the opening 15 minutes, and again put them in a hole to dig themselves out of.
Who better to help pull the team out of that hole than Rafa Marquez? There are few RBNY players that attract as much bile and fury from the RBNY fan base as Marquez. He had missed 18 out of 27 games this season between suspension and injury, while pulling in the second highest salary in the league. Two months removed from his last on-field performance, and with expectations that he would only be able to go 40-60 minutes, plenty of fans were critical of slotting him back into the starting lineup with so many others having earned their places. But Marquez silenced his critics with a perfectly lofted ball from the center line that went over Chad Marshall's head directly to Henry's feet, which he effortlessly slotted past goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum for the equalizer.
The goal gave the Red Bulls the momentum, and gradually the game shifted to their favor. Columbus looked out of ideas and hopeful they might be able to bunker for a draw. Dax McCarty threw quite the wrench into that plan in the 79th minute, powering a header in off a Thierry Henry corner for the eventual game-winner. The goal complicated Columbus' game further as Gruenebaum struck his head into the goal post while trying to make the save, and appeared to be knocked out. Replays of the goal within the arena went from jubilation to cringing as the crowd was subjected to watching the injury occur from multiple angles. Thankfully, after five minutes of medical attention, Gruenebaum was able to stand and walk off the field under his own power.
With five minutes of regulation to go and an unprecedented nine minutes of stoppage time, Crew coach Robert Warzycha made two substitutions, putting backup goalkeeper Matt Lampson into the net and bringing in the extremely dangerous Federico Higuain up top. Higuain already had 3 goals and 6 assists since joining the Crew in late July, and is generally credited with their recent resurgence. His time on the pitch didn't produce anything memorable—but Lampson earned the dubious honor of being on every MLS highlight reel for the foreseeable future. When Thierry Henry called over Wilman Conde before taking a corner, Lampman and the Crew defense shifted forward, expecting the corner to be played short. But Henry saw the keeper cheating forward and took the corner long instead. The ball sailed over the backup goalkeeper's head, off the post, and directly into the net—marking the first gol olimpico in RBNY history. The crowd erupted, and the Red Bulls cruised through the remaining minutes to seal the victory.
Here's Henry's stunner, as well as full highlights:
The result could not have come at a better time, as the Eastern Playoff race continues to tighten. The Red Bulls sit in third place in the East, but can catapult back into first thanks to a crucial "six point" game against Sporting Kansas City this Wednesday night in Harrison. Following the midweek game, New York will have one more opportunity to snap their decade-long winless streak in Foxboro in a game against the Revs on Saturday night.
Coach Hans Backe on how they exploited the Crew defense: "We said we need to test the back four. We need to play behind them. We play in front, they're strong, they're good 50-50 guys, big boys. But if you can force them to turn, they will probably have a team that is stressed. And that point, we could open up more space in front of the back four midfield. I think that we had 3, 4, 5 very precise passes over the top. And it always makes center backs a little bit uncomfortable when you know you have runners in behind, when you need to cover the space in behind."
Thierry "Mr. Modesty" Henry on his goal: "I've scored some OK goals in my career, but I have to say this one is not a bad one."
Tim Cahill on the team's form: "I just think this has been building for a number of weeks now. The momentum, the consistency, the discipline, the performance. Straight away, it was a bit unfortunate to concede the goal, which threw us off a bit, but I think this is probably the fourth time since I've been here we've gone down and then we've come back and dominated the game...we've got a good foundation, and I think we're coming together at the right time."
Dax McCarty on his game-winning header: "You know what's really funny about that? I think I only have nine or ten goals in my career, and I think three or four of them have been headers. Tell you what, this year I've had two goals saved off the line off corner kicks, and I got one against Chicago. So you know - I like to think of myself a little bit as a secret weapon!"
(Former RBNY) Columbus Crew Midfielder Tony Tchani on Thierry's goal: "I was quiet. I couldn’t even be mad because what can you say about that goal? You can’t even get mad. You just have to give him credit."
Next Game: Wednesday, September 19 7:00 PM, vs. Kansas City (TV: MSG+)