Red Bull New York's young defensive unit impressed once again as the club held on for its third straight clean sheet in a 1-0 defeat of the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday.
With Wilman Conde and Stephen Keel unavailable to selection and Roy Miller relegated to a substitute appearance, New York's inexperienced back-line of Tyler Ruthven, Markus Holgersson, Brandon Barklage and Connor Lade was kept in tact as it made the most of an early goal from Kenny Cooper to claim its third 1-0 victory in a row.
New York continued its habit of scoring early when a defensive miscue from Corey Ashe gifted the home side the lead in just the seventh minute. The Houston defender played a soft pass back to his goalkeeper and Cooper was quick to apply pressure, redirecting Tally Hall's hurried clearance into the back of an empty net.
Houston pressed for an equalizer before the close of the first half, but the Red Bulls defended as a unit and looked unlikely to be broken down.
New York looked to extend its lead in the second half as Juan Agudelo ripped a shot on goal in the 65th minute only for Hall to produce a sprawling save, and Dax McCarty hit a screamer shortly after that sailed inches wide of the post.
Brad Davis had a golden opportunity to get the Dynamo on level terms when the ball was pulled back for him at the top of the box in the 82nd minute, but his left-footed curler went just wide.
That strike opened up the final stages of the match as end-to-end action ensued.
Agudelo's brilliant side-volley was hit with pace but directly at Hall, while Houston's Adam Moffat sent a rocket just over the crossbar moments later at the other end.
Davis had arguably the best chance of the final 10 minutes when he ghosted into the box to latch onto a cross, but he failed to get his free header on target.
New York's rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara preserved his third straight shutout with some late heroics, producing a fine reaction save to deny Houston an equalizer in stoppage time. Meara nearly parried Calen Carr's header into his own net, but he recovered to collect the ball on the second attempt.
The Red Bulls are proving to be a formidable side without some of their perceived first-teamers as Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Teemu Tainio did not feature in Wednesday's win. New York (6-3-1) moves into second place in the Eastern Conference ahead of D.C. United and will return to action Sunday at PPL Park against its I-95 rivals, the Philadelphia Union.
Houston (2-3-2) was looking to gain some momentum heading into its first home game of the season. Instead, the Dynamo will ride a two-game losing skid into Saturday's grand opening of BBVA Compass Stadium against D.C. United.