New York 2, Los Angeles 0: Red Bulls Pick Up “Massive” Three Points, Boost Playoff Hopes

The LA Galaxy came to New York without Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Sean Franklin, and with a playoff spot already assured (not to mention the Supporters’ Shield just about in the bag), but that shouldn’t detract (not too much) from New York’s gut-check 2-0 win at Red Bull Arena last night.

After all, the Galaxy visited New York’s fellow Eastern Conference contenders Columbus on Sept 24 with a similarly depleted lineup and left with a 1-0 victory. Throw in New York’s shaky form since early summer, and the recent outbreak of Rafagate, and you had a setting ripe for a season-imploding loss in front of a sellout crowd.

Fortunately for New York fans, that didn’t happen, and the Red Bulls produced one of their best performances of the season in a game that Backe had described as “massive.” Designated player Thierry Henry and English Bulldog Luke Rodgers led the way, each scoring a goal and hitting the post. See here:

The Red Bulls are now 29-0-13 under Backe when scoring first. Their 9-7-16 record and 43 points have them tied with Houston in the 10th and final playoff spot. They have two games remaining, at first-place Sporting Kansas City (11-9-12) on Oct 15 and home to second-place Philadelphia (10-7-14) on Oct 20.

With just eight points separating first place in the East from seventh, New York could win the conference title or miss the playoffs entirely.

MLS Invades SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day

With four games on the schedule, last night was the busiest Wednesday of the year in Major League Soccer, and the action did not disappoint.

There was a five-goal flood in New York, a record-tying tally in Vancouver, and some great goalkeeping all over the map.

It was so good, in fact, that four spots on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day were occupied by MLS highlights.

Here they are, in the order they were ranked by ESPN:

10. Jeff Cunningham’s record-tying 133rd career goal

It also happened to be a 90th-minute winner for visiting Columbus versus Vancouver:

Final score Columbus 1, Vancouver 0

9. Matt Pickens’s astounding reaction save off a deflection against Sporting Kansas City

This one should have been higher; it’s a truly terrific save and it came in stoppage time, preserving a 1-1 tie for the visitors. Full (and worthwhile) highlights below, but scroll to 5:15 mark for Pickens’ heroics:

Final score: SKC 1, Colorado 1

7. Ben Zemanski’s swerving, 35-yard golazo against San Jose

This high-speed knuckleball broke open a game that seemed destined to become a dreaded 0-0 draw (and be sure to note Busch’s expression afterward. Priceless.):

Final score: Chivas USA 2, San Jose 0

3. This was a twofer: Luke Rodgers’ tremendous volley, and Juan Agudelo’s lethal header for New York against Toronto

Rodgers’ goal signaled the rout:

And Agudelo’s sealed it (and then he added one more):

Final score: New York 5, Toronto 0

ESPN also had a soccer highlight—a goal by Brazil in the Women’s World Cup—as its No. 1 play of the day. Not bad for footy on the WWL today: five out of 10.

New York 2, Colorado 2: Highlights

If you stepped out for six minutes midway through the first half of last night’s Red Bulls–Rapids game, you missed all four goals in the wild 2-2 draw.

With Thierry Henry’s former Arsenal teammates Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie watching from the stands at Red Bull Arena, Colorado struck first, on Jeff Larentowicz’s put-back of his own penalty kick in the 27th minute.

New York answered just two minutes later, after a sweet buildup found Henry alone at the top of the box. The Frenchman made no mistake, bagging his team-leading sixth goal of the year.

Colorado went back in front three minutes later as the Red Bulls’ wall fell apart on a Larentowicz free kick from 30 yards. But Luke Rodgers brought New York level again just a minute later for the final scoreline.

We take back what we said about Rodgers two weeks ago. The guy is proving to be extremely valuable to New York. He works his tail off and he constantly pops up in goal-scoring positions.

Highlights here:

A couple of comments: For the second game in a row, an instance of awful set-piece defending by New York (on the second goal). Hans Backe needs to sort that out.

He also might want to look at his substitution policies. Why was Henry, who started grimacing in pain midway through the second half (he missed the previous game with knee swelling), kept in so long?

Juan Agudelo should have been brought on around the 70- or 75-minute mark—not the 87th, which was when he did appear, to little effect.

Next up for New York (4-2-5) is a quick turnaround—and a cross-continental trip—to play Vancouver on Saturday afternoon. (Dollars to doughnuts Henry does not travel for that one. )

Colorado (4-3-5) hosts Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.

Luke Rodgers Embraces the New York Media Fishbowl

You may have noticed Red Bulls striker Luke Rodgers jawing with Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan during last Saturday’s meeting between the MLS conference leaders at the Home Depot Center.

Here’s the replay:

Afterward, Rodgers spoke to the New York Post about his little chat with Donovan, using, according to Post writer Brian Lewis, “multiple different terms to liken [Donovan] to male genitalia.

A sampling:

“ ‘The kid’s a (genitalia)head. I don’t care. I just think the kid’s a (friggin’ jerk). I don’t care what you put,’ said Rodgers, [making it] clear that his views were his views, and he didn’t care if they were printed, blogged or tweeted.”

We’re trying to think of a comparable situation in reverse. Let’s say, oh, Plymouth Argyle’s Anton Peterlin, an American player who never got so much as a sniff of the U.S. top flight (Rodgers came to RBNY from third-tier Notts County), somehow landed at Manchester City, got in a game against Manchester United and then sparked an altercation with Wayne Rooney, telling a London tabloid afterward that Rooney was a d***head and a jerk.

Not really a parallel comparison you say? True, Rooney has never scored in a World Cup, while Donovan has five World Cup goals. And Rooney did f*** all in the 2010 tournament (to use the Rodgers-esque British terminology) while Donovan sparked the U.S. comeback against Slovenia with a crucial goal, then sent the Americans to the knockout phase—and the top of Group C, over England—with an iconic strike against Algeria.

Sure, the comparison is not perfect, but apart from Rooney’s glaring inferiority on the international stage, we’d say it’s pretty analogous.*

Donovan, for his part, kept his response brief and to the point, posting the following to his Twitter feed on Monday: “I’m confused, who is Luke Rogers [sic]?

* Note: see here.