Despite losing 2-1 at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, the New York Red Bulls eliminated D.C. United from the MLS playoffs for the first time in their 19-year history, advancing to the next stage where they will take on the red hot New England Revolution.
New York did their job in the first leg with a dominant 2-0 victory that allowed them to head down I-95 with an advantage. Led by the playmaking of captain Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls seem to be hitting their stride at the right moment and hope to ride this wave of momentum all the way to the MLS cup final.
D.C. was in a tough spot coming into the second match as they not only had to score twice, but keep New York from getting that coveted away goal.
“I knew if [New York] scored one goal they would advance,” said junior Pete Rocchio. “D.C. is a solid team, but an away goal would surely end their season.”
The breakthrough came for D.C. in the 37th minute as Nick Deleon got on the end of a Taylor Kemp cross and headed it past Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles. New York responded in the 56th minute through Peguy Luyindula who finished a cross from his compatriot Henry.
The weighted away goal meant D.C. had to score three more to advance, and drawing was no longer a possibility. Sean Franklin, defender, added a second for D.C. in stoppage time, but it was nothing more than a consolation as the Red Bulls’ advanced on goal differential.
It was a loss that felt like a win, but not all is good in Harrison. Starting left back Roy Miller was sent off with two yellow cards and will miss the opening match against New England. Ambroise Oyongo, the Red Bulls’ left back, is comfortable filling in and has shown signs of being a real attacking threat down the left flank, but his inexperience has to be a concern.
The Revolution are arguably the scariest team in MLS right now led by United States Men’s National Team veteran Jermaine Jones and MLS MVP favorite Lee Nguyen.
“New England is the only team I didn’t want to play,” said Rocchio. “They look unbeatable right now, Nguyen is scoring every time he steps on the field.”
New England enters the game with incredible confidence after only losing two of their last 15 games, one of which was to the Red Bulls. The Revolution do have a slight advantage though as Henry has never played at Gillette Stadium due to the poor turf conditions and his propensity for Achilles injuries on such surfaces.
The Red Bulls need to take care of New England at home first, and avoid letting in an away goal at all costs. With the weight of finally beating D.C. in a playoff series off their shoulders, they can look to achieve another first in club history, an MLS cup. The first game against New England begins on Sunday Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m.