October 6, 2012
FOURTH-PLACE DEGREE BURN
Red Bulls fall into fourth, losing to Fire at home
By Michael Lewis
|Sherjill MacDonald celebrates his first goal in Chicago's 2-0 win over the Red Bulls.
Keith Furman/First Row Photos
HARRISON, N.J. -- Well, so much for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Heck, now the Red Bulls find themselves in fourth place.
In a must-win game for the Red Bulls if they wanted to secure home-advantage in the MLS playoffs, the Red Bulls came out flat against the Chicago Fire and paid for it in a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The victory gave the Fire (17-10-5, 56 points) sole possession of second place in the conference and a spot in the playoffs.
The Red Bulls (15-9-8, 53) fell into fourth place as D.C. United (16-10-6, 54) recorded a 1-0 away win at Toronto FC, with only two games remaining in the season. It was the Red Bulls' second home defeat this season.
Sherjill MacDonald connected for a second-half brace, scoring in the 65th and 78th minutes before a crowd of 21,157.
The winning-goal came off a nice through ball from Chris Rolfe to an onrushing MacDonald, who bolted towards the Red Bulls goal with no one between him and goalkeeper Luis Robles. With Heath Pearce coming in and Connor Lade chasing on the right side. Just as Pearce caught up to McDonald, the Chicago forward shot and placed the ball into the back of the net for his third goal this season.
Some 12 minutes later, midfielder Daniel Paladini set up McDonald with another through ball as it appeared defender Markus Holgersson held the Fire forward onside. McDonald had little problem beating Robles for a two-goal advantage.
With the game six minutes old, Robles denied Rolfe from the top of the box, but left a rebound. He managed to gather it in before an onrushing Patrick Nyarko could knock it into the net.
Nyarko's speed was too much for Red Bulls left back Wilman Conde in the 14th minute as he was forced to foul the Chciago midfielder in his defensive end and referee Ricardo Salazar awarded him a yellow card.
The Red Bulls almost found the back of the net in the 27th minute. Joel Lindpere sent a feed from the left flank to Kenny Cooper, who nodded it forward to Thierry Henry in the penalty area. Henry took a shot, but defender Arne Friedrich sprawled to stop the shot from going on frame.
Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty tried a shot from distance, but it sailed just wide right in the 33rd minute.
Chicago had the next opportunity in the 44th minute when an open Alvaro Fernandez headed a right-wing cross barely over the crossbar from eight yards.
Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Henry tried to run through a pair of Fire players in the attacking zone as he fell to the ground. He could not sell the foul to Salazar, who ruled to play on. A furious Henry got up and threw his arm in frustration over the non-call.
Before he walked off the field at halftime, Henry had some words with the game officials as there was some finger-pointing going on.
Henry was walking on thin ice to begin with as he was slapped with a yellow card for a hard foul on Rolfe in the 43rd minute.
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe replaced Conde with rookie Connor Lade at left back at halftime.
The visitors had the first opportunity of the second half as Freidrich volleyed a short feed from the left side that Robles punched away in the 54th minute.
The Red Bulls, however, had a pair of chances only seconds apart in the 57th and 58th minutes.
Henry's 16-yard blast deflected off a Chicago player for a corner kick. On Henry's ensuing header, Tim Cahill headed the ball right to goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Only 31 seconds after coming on for Jan Gunnar Solli in the 71st minute, Sebastien Le Toux almost equalized when he sent a point-blank head barely right wide of the net off a Joel Lindpere left-wing cross.