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Henry, Cooper lead Red Bulls past Toronto FC
HARRISON, N.J. (AP) Kenny Cooper broke out of a bit of a scoring drought, scoring his first two goals since Aug. 19, but the New York Red Bulls striker didn't want to talk about himself. The attention belonged to talented teammate Thierry Henry.
Henry scored a goal and set up three others to lead the Red Bulls to a 4-1 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday night, solidifying their chances to earn an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"I think he has eyes on the side of his head, the back of his head, all over," Cooper said. "His vision is unbelievable and I don't know how he's able to find me so easily."
Markus Holgersson also scored for the Red Bulls (15-8-8), who pulled even with Chicago for second place in the East - five points behind Sporting Kansas City - and improved to 11-1-3 at home.
So how impressive were Henry's assists?
"I think I could have scored on the two that Kenny got," Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. "He was phenomenal. He was flying through the first 45 minutes and set up every goal except his own. It's one of the best games he's had since he's been here. He was incredible with the ball. When he plays like this, when he shines like this, you could say he's the best player in the league."
Luis Robles, making his debut in goal for the Red Bulls, replacing the injured Bill Gaudette, made four saves to earn his first MLS victory.
Ryan Johnson scored in the 6th minute to give Toronto FC (5-19-7) an early lead.
The Red Bulls scored twice in a 14-minute span of the first half to take the lead. Henry hit a perfect corner kick in the 13th minute to the box, where Holgersson headed it home for the equalizer.
"He creates chances from all over," said Holgersson, who scored his third goal of the season. "It's awesome to watch when I'm in the back, but it's better when he's getting it to me to score. The ball came perfectly to me and it was an easy goal. He's amazing. He's just a fantastic player."
In the 27th minute, Henry's pretty heel pass set up Cooper for the go-ahead score.
Henry then made the play to set up the next score, drawing the defenders to him, then finding Cooper in front in the 88th minute. It gave Cooper 16 goals on the season, second in MLS behind San Jose's Chris Wondolowski.
"It's a privilege to have him play alongside of me," Cooper said. "It might have been more difficult for me to miss than to put those two in. He's an exceptional world class player."
Henry now has 12 assists for the season, and he became the first player in franchise history to get three in a match since Andy Williams did it on June 5, 2002, for the MetroStars against Los Angeles. Henry capped the night with his 14th goal from 25 yards out in stoppage time with Cooper getting the assist.
Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner thought that the team's travel - from Toronto to El Salvador for a CONCACAF Champions League contest, then Los Angeles and finally New York - did them in.
"It was a difficult travel week," Mariner said. "We just can't catch a break and it could be that they have quality players. It's probably more of the latter. He (Henry) was dominant on both sides of the ball."
Toronto had an opportunity to take a lead in the very first minute. Quincy Amarikwa broke free on the left flank and took a left-footed shot that eluded Robles but hit the right post.
Five minutes later, Toronto FC was the first to get on the scoreboard, when Johnson scored from 40 yards out that curled into far high left corner of the net, a shot that a stunned Robles never had a chance to stop.
In the 13th minute, Henry took a corner kick that was perfectly placed into the box. Defender Holgersson emerged from the pack in front and re-directed the cross with his head for his third goal of the season to tie the score 1-1.
The Red Bulls had another great chance to score in the 19th minute, when Cooper's left-footed blast was pushed aside by Toronto goalkeeper Freddy Hall.
The Red Bulls scored in the 27th minute when midfielder Lloyd Sam, getting his first MLS start, made a brilliant move with the ball and pushed it ahead to Henry. The Red Bulls' captain then touched the ball with his heel to Cooper, left all alone in front of the net. Cooper converted the easy goal. Cooper later added his 16th goal of the year, moving six behind Wondolowski.
Sam and Henry were masterful throughout the first half with their ball handling, leaving Toronto's defenders befuddled and unable to defend them.
"It was probably the best we've handled the ball all year," Backe said.
Sam had at least three sensational moves with the ball, leading to solid crosses and scoring chances. Sam also made an unbelievable 85-yard run from box-to-box to make a sliding tackle and take away a scoring opportunity in the 50th minute. Sam left in the 58th minute with an injury, replaced by Jan Gunnar Solli.
Updated September 29, 2012