Surprise starter Luke Rodgers scored twice in the first half to validate manager Hans Backe's decision to start him over a healthy Juan Agudelo. Rodgers' opportunistic strikes helped the Red Bulls record a 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, the same team that knocked New York out of the playoffs in the league quarterfinals a year ago.
The Red Bulls entered the match with a league-low two goals, but after having the bulk of possession for the last two games yet not converting chances, New York played to its scoring potential in the early going. Rodgers scored on a header in the second minute off a set-piece situation. In the 15th minute, Henry (more on him in a moment) picked Ramiro Corrales' pocket and played Rodgers in on goal for his second tally.
With Henry's goalless streak continuing to grow, Rodgers attempted to return the favor to the much-maligned Designated Player the rest of the match.
The Frenchman looked more determined than ever to snap his drought, yet he managed more than a few wayward attempts off feeds from Rodgers, Dwayne De Rosario and Joel Lindpere. He had one blast from outside the area that was superbly stopped by Jon Busch that caused him to put his hands out facing upward, as if he were out of answers.
In the 87th minute, anxiety and tension were released in the smoke bomb set off in the Red Bull Arena crowd, as Henry finally broke though. His header off a Rodgers cross sealed a masterful night for the Red Bulls, who more than doubled their season goal output in the victory and climbed within two points of Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia. A big question still remains for the club in light of Rodgers' showing aside Henry, though. After Agudelo's early success, for both club and country, what will his role in Backe's rotation be going forward?
The story to emanate from Canada, though, or wherever D.C. United happens to be on a given day, continued to be Charlie Davies.
Davies penned the next chapter in his comeback story by earning his first start of the season, playing the full 90 minutes and scoring his league-leading fifth goal in D.C.'s most complete performance of the 2011 campaign.
Mere minutes after Pontius opened the scoring, Davies pounced on an awful giveaway in the center of the park by Danleigh Borman and found Josh Wolff for a quick-hit counterattack. Although Stefan Frei saved Wolff's shot, Davies followed the play and slotted home the rebound to double United's advantage and notch his second goal in the run of play this season.
He was robbed of a second goal by Frei on a breakaway in the 89th minute before being forced to the sideline with what appeared to be a cramp in his left calf. After not playing 90 minutes in a first-team game for such an extended time, cramping at the end of the match isn't all that surprising. After another productive performance, Davies starting aside Wolff from here on out should not be surprising, either.
Chivas stands at the top of the league's allocation order and is in pole position to sign Feilhaber, who signed with MLS ahead of Friday's transfer deadline. Whether Chivas plugs him into its lineup or signs him as major trade bait, passing on his rights shouldn't be considered a viable option. In Feilhaber, Chivas has the chance to add a potentially dynamic figure into the center of its attack that can unlock opposing defenses, something it just doesn't have between the bevy of central midfield options on the roster.
If coach Robin Fraser doesn't have plans to pencil Feilhaber, a California native, into his formation, then he should at least explore the option of dealing his rights for an impact offensive player that might be more cost-effective. With just three points and three goals through five matches, Chivas needs an infusion of attacking talent one way or another. Fraser, a former Real Salt Lake assistant who saw up close what Javier Morales means to RSL's attack, has the chance to find a remedy for the team's glaring weakness in the U.S. national team midfielder, one determined to prove his worth ahead of this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Following a corner kick, Fredy Montero, who made his return off the bench after a two-game injury absence, chipped toward the edge of the six-yard box where Alvaro Fernandez headed in the stoppage-time equalizer to help the Sounders to a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union.
Both Montero and Fernandez have been under the spotlight for their lack of production this season, but both delivered in stormy conditions at PPL Park after watching their team be outplayed from a possession and chances standpoint for the bulk of the match.
While Montero's place in Sigi Schmid's lineup is never a point of contention when he's fit, Fernandez is in a different boat. The technically sound Uruguayan international entered the season as a starter on the right but has ended up playing sparingly as a reserve, much like his contribution after he joined the team last summer. Perhaps Saturday's goal is the moment that provides confidence and puts him on the path to earning his DP status.
The Crew's 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City marked the club's fourth consecutive clean sheet -- a franchise record -- and it came against the league's highest-scoring team per game entering this week. With a road match at Toronto FC up next on the docket, the team's 373-minute shutout streak has the potential to grow even more.
The defensive combination of Chad Marshall, Julius James, Sebastian Miranda and rookie Rich Balchan has proved to be a rather unified, rock-solid group, and it afforded Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara & Co. very few chances in sloppy conditions at Crew Stadium.
Goal-scoring remains an issue in the absence of Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Feilhaber would certainly be an ideal fit between Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven), and the Crew experimented Saturday by pushing Gaven to the top of its formation and pairing him with Emilio Renteria. While the one-goal output -- provided by Rogers -- wasn't impressive, it got the job done and gave the defense everything it needed to add three points to the team's total. Just like the Crew has been doing for quite some time.