By DAN KARELL
Despite a mostly uninspiring performance against lowly Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls showed that they could still take care of business when expected to.
With goals on either side of halftime from Thierry Henry and substitute Fabian Espindola, the Red Bulls topped TFC, 2-0, on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena, going top of the Eastern Conference in the process. The victory was the Red Bulls’ tenth in a row against TFC.
Making his first professional start in place of Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam, Michael Bustamante overcame a nervous opening to help set up the game-winning goal. In the 32nd minute, the former Boston University Terrier found teammate Dax McCarty in the box, who centered to a wide-open Henry to tap home.
The goal didn’t end the Red Bulls’ stagnant offensive play, as they were clearly missing the leadership of the injured Tim Cahill and playmaking ability as well as speed from Sam in the midfield. TFC’s Alvaro Rey and Jonathan Osorio looked bright for much of the game, but it was a decision by Osorio that seemed to wake the Red Bulls up.
The Canadian international slammed a clearance off the head of Red Bulls defender Kosuke Kimura while he was prone and on the ground in the 78th minute, starting a brief melee between players on the two teams.
Just two minutes later, Espindola, with his first touch of the ball, sent a looping header over the head of TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik and across the line for the host’s second goal of the night.
Due to the Montreal Impact’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew earlier on Saturday, the Red Bulls moved into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference standings with the win. Moving three above the Impact and Sporting Kansas City, who have two games in hand and had the weekend off.
Here are the match highlights: