July 6, 2011
A STRIKING PARTNERSHIP
Henry, Rodgers combine to spark Red Bulls to a 5-0 win over Toronto FC
By Michael Lewis
|when Luke Rodgers (above) and Thierry Henry play together, the Red Bulls are unstoppable.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- For the first time since June 10, the Red Bulls put the Henry and Rodgers shingle out at an MLS game and not surprisingly, they won for the first time since then.
Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers scored a goal apiece as the Red Bulls rolled to a 5-0 win over Toronto FC on Wednesday night.
Juan Agudelo hit for a second-half brace off the bench and Joel Lindpere added a goal to give him five in his last three games before a crowd of 15,269 at Red Bull Arena.
The victory propeled the Red Bulls (6-3-10, 28 points) into first place in the Eastern Conference past the idle Philadelphia Union (7-4-6, 27).
"It's a massive win for us," Rodgers said. "We were on top of our game today. I don’t think anyone could wish for anything else," Rodgers said. "This will kick start us again.”
When both players have been healthy and playing together, Henry and Rodgers have formed the most feared strike force in the league as the Red Bulls have a 5-1-3 record, accuring 18 out of a possible 27 points. The Red Bulls have outscored their opponents in those games, 18-8, and their dynamic duo have combined for an amazing 14 goals, Henry eight and Rodgers six.
In the rest of their matches, the Red Bulls are only 1-2-7.
"I enjoy playing with Henry," Rodgers said. "It's brilliant to play with such a player like that. When you play, you're always going to get chances. He's a big fire for us. He's the top scorer in the league. He's a massive player for us. I just enjoy playing with him, really."
When asked about how much spark his partnership with Rodgers gives the Red Bulls, Henry was more contrary than anything else.
"I do not agree with that," he said. "We scored goals without Luke and we’ve scored goals without me. The only thing I can say is that we did not concede goals today. Even if we did not score four or five, I think we would have won two nil tonight. Of course, it is easy to talk now. It is nothing to do with Luke and me. "
Well, maybe it is.
Dax McCarty, who joined the team in the trade last week, had the best view of the duo's attacking form from the midfield.
“Well, one of them is still, in my opinion, one of the best players in the world and the other one is a guy that works his tail off and can finish," he said. "Both of them are very dangerous.
"Thierry likes to drop into the midfield, find the ball, try to create and obviously got us going on the right foot with a great finish and Luke, what is more to say, he scored probably the goal of the game, tremendous finish. Getting those two guys back and healthy is going to be key for us.”
Yes it is.
Rodgers was playing his first game since the 2-1 win over New England on June 10, since he was sidelined with planta fascitis in his left foot.
“I rushed myself," he admitted. "I’m still not 100 percent. I’m not feeling 100% at all, but if I can keep working on it and doing the right things, hopefully it will get back to normal and I will be able to start playing the full 90 minutes again.”
Rodgers, who was replaced by Agudelo in the 56th minute, said he hopes to play against D.C. United on Saturdya.
"They pulled me off early to save me," he said. "I think I will be OK."
Rodgers was limping near the end of of tenure on the field.
"It's just the worst pain," he said. "Its like have a piece of glass in your foot and pushing off it all the time. I don't know really what to do. Just take each day as it comes.
“I don’t feel right, I have just played a lot of minutes after I have been out for three weeks. I never felt like this anyway but I am just trying to be able to play games, same as everyone else, and trying to play. That’s what I want really. I never had a preseason so I knew this would happen.”
After a relatively quiet 15 minutes, the Red Bulls put themselves into high gear and never looked back.
Henry struck for his league-leading ninth goal of the season in the 33rd minute. Overlapping right fullback Jan Gunnar Solli sent a pass into the area that Rodgers barely got a piece of. The ball came right to Henry, who found himself one-on-one with Frei. The former French international had an easy time tapping home his goal.
"I tried to score, but I totally miskicked it," Rodgers said.
Solli set up the second goal as well. This time Rodgers got the ball, lifted the ball up into the air with his left foot and and fired a line drive volley into the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage in the 38th minute.
"Just an instinct finish, really," Rodgers said.
The Red Bulls thought they were bringing in a 3-0 lead into the locker room at halftime as Joel Lindpere ripped a free kick past Frei in first-half stoppage time. But Gamble claimed Rodgers had fouled a Toronto player and disallowed the goal.
Lindpere, the MLS player of the week this week, did get his goal, although he he had to wait until the second half.
That came after Toronto striker Javier Martina sent a shot off the left post that bounded right to a diving Sutton in the 52nd minute. The Red Bulls moved the ball quickly as Henry gave Richards an outlet pass. Richards had plenty of room down the right side before squaring a feed to Lindpere at the top of the penalty area, where he sent a left-footed shot into the lower left corner for a 3-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
The onslaught continued in the 67th minute. This time Lindpere played playmaker as Agudelo headed home his corner kick from 10 yards for a four-goal advantage.
Agudelo added his second goal of the match and fourth of the season in the 89th minute.