May 8, 2013, 10:21 PM EDT
New York was part of a four-team cluster at the top of the East before hosting Montréal on Wednesday, but as we discussed pre-game, there were still reasons to doubt whether the Red Bulls were worth of such a lofty status. After their 2-1 win over the Impact, thought, find some other place to cast those doubts. Along with Sporting Kansas City, they are the only team to beat Montréal this season.
And as predicted, it was the stars that pushed them over the top. Or, more readily, it was the star, with two Thierry Henry goals the difference between three points and the Red Bulls’ second loss of the season to the Impact.
The first was less Henry’s doing than the product of chaos created by a Justin Mapp turnover and an Eric Alexander shot:
The real jewel of Henry’s night was this one, an overhead kick that proved to be the game-winner:
It was exactly what we talked about before the game. At times New York tried to work wide-to-in, but without the personnel to take advantage, the Red Bulls didn’t have many ways to break down Montréal. But when all else fails, they have Cahill, they have Juninho, and they have Henry. And on Wednesday night, the league’s biggest star stepped up with a moment of class which few players would have the instincts to produce.
That’s not to say there weren’t some nervy moments. In stoppage time, Marco Di Vaio, who started the match on the bench, pulled Montréal within one. Seconds later, Di Vaio sent a chills through the Red Bull crowd, his shot from the middle of the area going off both posts while the linesman raised his flag.
It was never going to be easy against Montréal, but Red Bull got the win: their fourth in five, a victory that should momentarily confirm their place as a contender in the East. If they resort to their March selves, that could change, but for now, Mike Petke’s team is living up to its potential. And they’re tied with Houston atop the East.
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