Drilling down on: at New York Red Bulls 2, Houston 0

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Man of the Match: Quite a few good performances to choose from for the home team, including all the men along the back line.  But new man Tim Cahill had a lot to say about both goals, providing the back post header for a tap-in not long after the break and then putting Thierry Henry through along the left wing to set up the late stat-padder.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Kenny Cooper came back into the starting lineup for New York, one of three changes. Dax McCarty, having served his one-gamer for accumulating too many bookings, was back in for Teemu Tainio, and Heath Pearce was at left center back for Wilman Conde.
  • No changes for Houston; exact same lineup from last week’s 2-0 win at BBVA in Texas. But … you wonder how long Adam Mofftat can hold off Ricardo Clark, who replaced the incumbent at the Dyamo’s holding midfield spot in the 75th minute Friday.
  • Connor Lade’s energy and willingness to get forward from his new spot (right back, rather than left back or left midfielder) helped keep Mac Kandji from being such a presence on Houston’s attack. Kandji, Houston’s left wing, played more defense in the first 30 minutes than he did all last week. And he got kicked a lot, too. Thierry Henry’s public admonishments (about Kandji getting too much time to dally on the ball last week) sure seemed to get through.
  • On the other hand, Lade’s background as a midfielder and inexperience as a defender sometimes leaves him reacting rather than anticipating. And sometimes that’s too late. Like the 72nd minute through ball to Kandji that got behind him; the Dynamo forward was in alone on Bill Gaudette and really should have equalized.
  • No team in MLS can turn a match into a scrappy contest for second balls like Houston can. It was like that early Friday and then again over the last 15 minutes.
  • Tally Hall’s footwork and ball handling in goal for Houston were sloppy, and it left the Dynamo in trouble two or three times in the first half. On the other hand …
  • Joel Lindpere put Henry through beautifully in the 30th minute, but Hall’s positioning and determination to remain big and on his feet won the one-on-one battle.
  • Tim Cahill’s bread-and-butter is clever, well-timed runs near goal that turn into lethal headers. So it was just this side of shocking when the Aussie international was unchallenged in picking up an Henry corner kick only to send it harmlessly wide from about eight yards. Cahill made amends by gathering a smart assist, his first for the Red Bulls and surely an important one.
  • It was the first goal allowed by Houston in the run of play since June. Yes, since June.
  • New York created as many chances in the first half Friday as Houston did last week in Texas. The difference: Houston’s finishing was sharper.
  • Cahill’s fitness is still an issue, as you would expect. His connections with Henry in front of him and Dax McCarty behind him faded after about an hour. (Although Cahill did hold the ball under pressure and then feed Henry to get that second goal going.)
  • For a man who isn’t particularly special going forward, and considering the Orange were on the road, right back Andrew Hainault sure got forward a bunch.
  • Luis Camargo had two chances inside the penalty area after coming in for Calen Carr, but just didn’t have the hell-bent desire to get something aimed solidly at goal.
  • Rafa Marquez was available, coming off a calf injury, and did get in late as Hans Backe tried to corner the market on central midfielders.