Red Bulls-United Preview

The New York Red Bulls dominated possession in their first four

games, but poor finishing led to only two goals.

Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry made sure those struggles

wouldn’t continue.

The Red Bulls’ new pairing up front produced three goals in an

easy victory, a result they’ll look to build on Thursday night at

RFK Stadium against league scoring leader Charlie Davies and D.C.

United.

Despite the presence of Henry, rising star Juan Agudelo and the

April 1 addition of two-time MLS Cup MVP Dwayne De Rosario, New

York (2-1-2) did little through four games to indicate it was

living up to its preseason billing as one of the Eastern Conference

favorites.

After being held to one goal in three games despite often having

the run of play, the Red Bulls broke out Saturday against San Jose.

Coach Hans Backe inserted Rodgers into Agudelo’s striker spot and

the 5-foot-7 former English third division star shined, scoring

twice and setting up Henry’s goal in New York’s 3-0 victory.

“I don’t know if it is because teams don’t see him because he’s

so short or because he’s so fast, but he’s always dangerous,” Red

Bulls defender Tim Ream told MLSSoccer.com of Rodgers. “But he runs

for 90 minutes.”

Getting Henry on the scoreboard was perhaps as significant as

Rodgers’ contributions. The four-time English Premier League Golden

Boot winner hadn’t scored since Sept. 11 – a drought totaling 684

minutes – and had been bothered by what he was calling a “chronic”

Achilles’ injury.

“He was (in a) different class (Saturday), his touch on the

ball,” Backe said of Henry. “He was strong on one-versus-one’s as a

target, so this was his best performance so far for (the Red

Bulls). If he can stay on this level, we definitely have a player

who can make a difference in this league.”

Perhaps the most encouraging news to come from the win is that

Henry’s Achilles didn’t bother him, meaning Backe plans to once

again pair him with Rodgers against United (2-2-1) despite the

short week.

New York might need Rodgers and Henry to be on top of their

games again to keep up with D.C., which has an East-high nine

goals.

Davies, who is making his comeback from a near-fatal car crash

that kept him off the 2010 U.S. World Cup roster, made his first

start Saturday at Toronto and scored his fifth goal, while Chris

Pontius added two more in a 3-0 win.

“Hopefully the goals keep coming,” Davies said. “I’m just kind

of shocked the way things have been going, (but) I’m surrounded by

a great group of guys and the support is there so I just have to

keep improving.”

United managed to get three points Saturday despite dealing with

a flu bug that made its way through the team, keeping rookie Perry

Kitchen out of the starting lineup and midfielder Andy Najar out

entirely.

By Tuesday, though, D.C. seemed to be in far better shape.

“It seems like it’s leaving,” coach Ben Olsen said. “…

Physically I think we’re in a pretty good spot, having a lot of

choices on my end – and that’s a good thing.”

The Red Bulls won the season series 1-0-1 in 2010.