"I'm never scared to try anything," said New York Red Bulls captain Thierry Henry during his on-the-air interview that followed the team's 1-0 victory over Chicago Fire on Wednesday afternoon. Conditions on the pitch at match kickoff were actually hotter than what was advertised on Tuesday evening, with temperatures reaching well above 100 degrees. All that melted this afternoon, outside of some ice cream and frozen lemonade, were the Fire's hopes of earning a point, and that is all thanks to yet another memorable goal from the living legend who once again reminded us that the old adage is true: Class is permanent.
NY Red Bulls 1-0 Chicago Fire: The first half
Was extremely frustrating to watch for fans of the Red Bulls. Victor Palsson, perhaps a little over-excited to find himself selected to be in the team's starting eleven, committed multiple turnovers in dangerous parts of the field, Mehdi Ballouchy was guilty of what was, until Sebastien Le Toux missed on a second half attempt that realistically should have put New York up 2-0, the whiff of the season, and Henry got angrier and angrier with his teammates, so much so that he was (reportedly) demanding that one of them be taken off during the early stages of the second half. While Chicago appeared to be the more gassed side heading into the break, this game screamed "scoreless draw" after 45 minutes of sloppy and largely "meh" play.
NY Red Bulls 1-0 Chicago Fire: Backe got it right
New York fans ridiculed the team's head coach this past weekend for his using just one substitute during Sunday's 2-2 draw with Seattle. Many individuals commenting on social networking websites during Wednesday's contest were very surprised to see Henry back out on the field following halftime. The Red Bulls do have another league contest this coming Saturday afternoon, after all, and Kenny Cooper had been left out of the starting lineup to eventually replace Henry. Backe told MSG's Tina Cervasio following the match that he trusted Henry to make the right decision regarding his involvement in the contest's second half.
Good thing, because a moment of brilliance from Henry midway through the second half propelled the Red Bulls to three points. A perfectly placed over the top diagonal ball from Le Toux connected with Henry just outside the left portion of the Chicago penalty area, and Henry brought the ball down with his chest before hitting a volley from what many would consider to be an impossible angle. The rocket strike beat goalkeeper Sean Johnson before taking a kiss off the woodwork and going into the net. The goal that you absolutely must see to appreciate was Henry's first since April 28, an impressive way to end a drought.
NY Red Bulls 1-0 Chicago Fire: Another clutch stop
Brandon Barklage is soon going to get a reputation for making these types of plays. Chicago's Orr Barouch appeared to have the equalizer seven minutes from time, as New York goalkeeper Bill Gaudette was a step out of position and thus unable to reach the headed attempt that was on its way into the net. Barklage, covering the left post, headed the ball of the line, saving New York's 1-0 advantage that the hosts held until the final whistle. It was Barklage's second goalline save of the summer, and he, after a few stumbles, is again proving that he can start for a 2012 MLS Cup contender.
NY Red Bulls 1-0 Chicago Fire: Overall
There's no denying that this was far from the most exciting game you'll ever watch, and nothing about Wednesday's contest left anybody believing that afternoon summer matches are anything but a bad idea. The Red Bulls needed this win to keep the "seven points in nine during the home stand" dream alive, and also to keep pace with Sporting Kansas City and DC United in the MLS Eastern Conference. The best news is that, roughly 45 minutes after the match, no reports of anybody suffering any heat-related illnesses had surfaced.
Bring on Philly.