HARRISON, NJ -- After having a poor start to the season, losing two games on the road, the New York Red Bulls wanted to make sure that trend didn't follow the club at home.
Team captain Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper scored two goals a piece to pace the Red Bulls (1-0-2) to an easy 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids (2-0-1). Omar Cummings scored for the Rapids late in the game.
While the team's offense sputtered on its two road defeats, mustering only one goal, it was alive and well in the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena. Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said that the team's motivation was obvious and he expected the players to react in the way they did on Sunday.
"You can see the players, how focused they are. You could see a difference," Backe said after the match. " You lost two games; you're a little bit under pressure. You need to perform, you need to dig in."
The forward tandem of Henry and Cooper, who started together for the first time this season, continued to show potential as the two strikers displayed a good understanding on the field. The pair paid dividends early.
In the third minute, Henry received a long-ball pass from the midfield and only had Rapids center back Drew Moor to beat. He went left and calmly finished towards the right-hand side of Matt Pickens' goal. The 33-year-old celebrated the moment by pointing to the ground and gesturing that this is his house.
Moments later, Cooper followed suit, showing some nifty footwork on the right side of the box to beat two defenders and tap in a rolling finish on the left side in the seventh minute.
Henry sealed the victory in the second half as he managed to stay onside to receive a long pass from center back Willman Conde and instantly blew past fullback Marvel Wynne to beat Pickens again in the 53rd minute. Henry was clearly grateful for the precise pass by the defender, who made an impact play in his first game with the team.
In the dying minutes of the game, Cooper padded the Red Bulls' lead to four as fullback Roy Miller found the 6-foot-4 forward in the penalty area to beat Pickens from the left side in the 90th minute. Backe believes that if Cooper can develop a ruthless side, he will be lethal this season.
"If you look at the stats with Kenny [Cooper], he's always been scoring," said Backe. "He's a very nice guy, probably too nice. If he would use his body a little bit more [physically], he would even score more."
Henry almost had his first hat trick with New York as the Designated Player beat Luis Zapata outside the penalty box in added time and fired a shot at Pickens. However, the Rapids' stopper was quick to respond, grabbing Henry's shot with ease. Henry was clearly disappointed as he held his hands on his hips seconds after.
The Red Bulls captivated their 21,024 fans early and never appeared as if it they would suffer some of the defensive setbacks that have plagued the club over the past few months. Even after conceding a consolation goal in the 77th minute, with Cummings beating Rafa Marquez to score, the players remained confident. Henry said
Where the sides different was in the quality of play. New York was able to get into dangerous positions in the penalty box from early on whereas Colorado couldn't manage anything offensively until the second half. New York had the midfield pairing of Marquez and Dax McCarthy to thank.
The two hassled the Rapids midfield making it very difficult for its offense to gain any continuity. Marquez clearly made an impact, making several key interceptions and having a strong game on the field passing. Backe was clearly happy with the Mexican international's effort.
"As we said before last year is history," Backe said. "Over the past two seasons, we've only had him for 50 percent of our games. Having him involved with the whole preseason, he's fits in now."
He added, "The way he can organize the team attacking and defending during 90 minutes, his precise passing game, when to get possession and when to go direct is very important to us."When the game came to a close, the team celebrated with its fans clearly happy to put its 0-2 start in its rear view.