BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Kenny Cooper had gone seven matches without scoring a goal, but he picked a perfect time to end his recent drought.
Cooper headed home crosses from Connor Lade and Thierry Henry to push his season goal total to 13 and help the Red Bulls deliver a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. The victory moved New York into first place, two points ahead of Sporting KC (which plays New England tonight).
The match started out a fairly even affair, with neither team providing much of a threat, but the Red Bulls began to take control as the first half went on, thanks in part to the energy provided by Lade and Sebastien LeToux, who kept the Union defense running all day. Lade helped open the scoring when he sent a perfect cross in to Cooper, who beat Gabriel Farfan to head home his first goal in the 41st minute.
Cooper made it 2-0 in the 58th minute when Lade and Henry combined on a passing sequence that ended with Henry delivering a cross to Cooper as he beat the Union's offside trap and scored a wide-open header for his 13th goal of the season.
“I think it’s important to always stay positive. I have so many quality teammates around me and I have some much confidence in them and you see today the types of opportunities they were able to create for me,” Cooper said. “The two finishes were just yards outside the goal and you can see the great quality in the pass. I’m just happy I didn’t mess it up for them.
“With this team, you can be confident that as a team we are going to create chances and fortunately I was able to get on at the end of some today.”
A high tempo start to the match rarely saw a challenge on net by either side. New York would have the first real scoring opportunity when Cooper took a blast from the right hand side of the box that Philadelphia keeper Zac MacMatch managed to bat away. In a near replay of Sunday’s sequence against Seattle, the rebound landed at the feet of a streaking Sebastian Le Toux but this time his shot sailed well high of the net.
New York would get on the board when Connor Lade, who enjoyed another standout performance, sent a perfectly timed cross from outside the box into Kenny Cooper’s lane where he lined it up and head home the feed.
The goal was Cooper’s first since May 23rd against Chivas USA.
The big man wasn’t done there. A gorgeous feed in the 58th minute, this time from Thierry Henry, found the striker one on one with MacMath by the goal mouth. Cooper lined up the ball and headed the feed past the keeper for the brace.
“I think it’s always for strikers, there will be phases during the season where strikers don’t score in sixe, seven or either weeks,” Red Bulls coach Hans Backe noted. “ Of course, everyone knows that strikers are on the pitch to score or set up goals. For confidence of course, two headers, I don’t think he’s scored a header before this year … maybe one. But of course, it’s important for every striker to be the one scoring.”
The Union struggled to find their form throughout the match in the absence of Freddy Adu, but almost managed to score one of their own in extra time. A pinpoint feed to the feat of Antoine Hoppenot found its way into the back of the net, but the goal was called back on an apparent offside. Replays showed otherwise.
Nevertheless, New York rounded out a grueling three game homestand with seven points on a 2-0-1 record. They will now hit the road to face the Montreal Impact this Saturday.
Here are your match highlights: