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Red Bulls Take Over First In Eastern Conference, Dominate Toronto FC

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 06: Thierry Henry #14 of the New York Red Bulls shoots the ball past goalkeeper Stefan Frei #24 of the Toronto FC for a first-half goal on July 6, 2011 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Red Bulls defeated Toronto FC 5-0. (credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

HARRISON, NJ – JULY 06: Thierry Henry #14 of the New York Red Bulls shoots the ball past goalkeeper Stefan Frei #24 of the Toronto FC for a first-half goal on July 6, 2011 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Red Bulls defeated Toronto FC 5-0. (credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) — With the CONCACAF Gold Cup over and most of their injured players back on the field, the Red Bulls finally resembled a team that’s ready to make a run at the MLS Cup.

Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers scored in a five-minute span of the first half, and the Red Bulls moved into first place in the Eastern Conference with a dominating 5-0 victory over Toronto FC on Wednesday night.

Jan Gunnar Solli set up the goals in the 33rd and 38th minutes, and Joel Lindpere scored and assisted on two goals by Juan Agudelo in the second half to turn it into a rout.

The five goals were a season high for New York and the most the team has scored in a game in two years.

“This is a massive win for us,” said Rodgers, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with a foot injury. “We’re a good team and we were on top of our game today. All the goals came from different people and it was great. I don’t think anyone can wish for anything else. I think everyone is pleased and I think it will kick-start us again. If we are playing like that there is no reason why you can’t win every single game.”

Winning has been a problem for the Red Bulls. This was only their second victory since May 7 (2-8-2), but it was enough to push them a point ahead of idle Philadelphia, which has played two fewer games.

Dax McCarty, acquired from D.C. United last week in a trade for Dwayne De Rosario, seemed stunned when told the Red Bulls had won only two games in the past two months.

“Watching their past few games, it’s just little mental mistakes that undo us,” McCarty said. “Today we didn’t have any of those. When we don’t have any mental mistakes in the back I think we are going to be very hard to stop. You can tell the talent is here, no doubt about it. Now it’s just of matter of proving it.”

Toronto coach Aron Winter said the difference was New York converted its chances.

“Five times they went on the counter and got a goal,” he said. “They got a chance and they finished. If you watched the game, you saw how many opportunities we had within the front of the box, but we weren’t able to score.”

Greg Sutton made five saves for New York in posting his second shutout of the season.

Toronto, which snapped a nine-game winless streak last week, is 1-5-5 in its last 11 matches.

“It seems like there has been a few times this year where it’s just little things, bounces, that lead to losses,” Toronto defender Dan Gargan said. “It’s frustrating and it’s hard to play with, but it’s also these are sometimes the bumps and bruises of the game.”

Toronto will get some help in a little more than a week when German midfielder Torsten Frings and Dutch forward Danny Koevermans join the team after the transfer window opens on July 15.

“That doesn’t change the fact we need to learn how to play with one another,” Gargan said. “Who knows what they are going to do. Hopefully they’re fit and they come in and help us, but we need to play together, the 11 on the field.”

Henry gave the Red Bulls the lead for good in the 33rd minute after Solli’s crossing pass was whiffed on by defender Ty Harden, giving the French striker an open shot for his team-high ninth goal.

Rodgers, who missed the last four games with plantar fasciitis, handled another Solli cross on the first bounce and ripped a shot past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Toronto had its best chance early in the second half when Javier Martina got the ball at the top of the box. However, his shot banged off the goalpost and bounced right back to Sutton.

On the Red Bulls’ ensuing counter-attack, Lindpere took a pass from Dane Richards and beat Frei for his fourth goal in the last three games.

Agudelo, who replaced Rodgers in the second half, scored on a header in the 68th minute and added his fourth goal of the season in the 89th on a deflection.

Can the Red Bulls keep it up? Let us know in the comments below…

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)