November 6, 2013
EXIT, STAGE RIGHT
Supporters Shield not withstanding, Red Bulls bounced from playoffs again
By Michael Lewis
|Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- Different year, different opponent, same result.
Once again the Red Bulls crashed out of the Major League Soccer playoffs after yet another early exit.
For the 12th time in 14 playoff appearances in their 18-year history, the Red Bulls were eliminated in the conference semifinals.
Only 10 days after securing the Supporters Shield for having the best record of all 19 teams, the Red Bulls find themselves on the sidelines for the second part of the playoffs yet again.
This time their executioner was the Houston Dynamo, which recorded a 4-3 aggregate-goal victory after winning the second leg of the Eastern Conference semis, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Houston on Sunday,
The Dynamo will play Sporting Kansas City in the conference final with the first leg on Saturday. The Red Bulls will be forced to watch that series and the rest of the series on TV -- again.
Needless to say, the elimination left the Red Bulls numb.
"It's terrible," coach Mike Petke said. "You can't exorcise every ghost in one year from this club. We exorcised one of them. Our hats off to Houston. They're a playoff team. They proved the last three years. We did it to ourselves the last two games.
“It doesn't take away from how proud I cam of these guys this year. It doesn't take anything away from that."
Both games of the series eerily followed familiar paths as Houston took advantage of Red Bulls' blunders. The Red Bulls took a lead in both games before Houston's first goal came from a former New York player. In Sunday's encounter, midfielder Ricardo Clark did the honors.
On Wednesday, it was Brad Davis’s turn.
That left it up to Jamaican international Omar Cummings, who missed most of the regular season with injuries to put in the equalizer on Sunday and the game- and series- winner on Wednesday night.
Kofi Sarkodie sent a right-wing feed to extra-tme substitute Cam Weaver in the penalty area and Weaver headed the ball to Cummings, who slotted the ball toward the lower right corner. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles tried to stop the ball, but it trickled just over the goal line for the go-ahead goal as the stadium crowd of 22,264 fell silent.
"By the time Omar headed it, I was shifting over," Robles said. "I was able to get my hand down, but when my hand touched the ball, the ball was already over the line.
"I was hoping the linesman was a little too far out so he couldn't see it. The ball went over. By the time I was able to react to it, it was heading down, It's a story of missed chances this whole series. it's been missed opportunities."
And the Red Bulls paid for it dearly
The Red Bulls swept the Dynamo during the regular season, 3-0, outscoring their foes, 9-1. The Dynamo was a changed team in the semifinal series.
“I think it’s just playoff time," Cummings said. "The Red Bulls for the regular season had our number, they beat us three times and they beat us convincingly. ... Man, the season is done; this is the playoffs, it’s a different ball game. I think that was the attitude we had coming into these two games; the playoffs are different, get rid of the regular season, that’s over with. It’s playoff time, let’s go."
The Red Bulls' defense, so solid during the season, went south at the worst possible times in both games.
"Its individual mistakes and they happen," Petke said. "Please make sure you write out what I just said: that happens a lot. It happens to everybody. A missed cross, a bad touch. Whereas I don’t think that we saw many of that during the year as in years past. This year it seemed to have crept up on us in the playoffs."
The Red Bulls had more scoring opportunities, but could not put the ball away, whether it was poor shooting of the play of Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall, who finished with eight saves.
Asked what went wrong, Petke replied, "Besides them scoring more goals? We didn’t finish. I think we were a bit off on our crossing, on our passing. I think we were a bit too urgent for most of the night instead of calming the match down. Yeah, at the end of the day they did what they had to do to come in here and get a result."
Bradley Wright-Phillips gave the hosts the lead in the 23rd minute. Tim Cahill passed the ball to Lloyd Sam on the right side and the winger sent in a low cross into the box. Hall could not get a hold of the ball and Wright-Phillips slotted the ball from close range on the right side with defender Eric Brunner helplessly watching.
The Dynamo was gifted a goal by the Red Bulls in the 36th minute on a poor clearance by Ibrahim Sekagya. While on the right side of the area, he sent the ball directly to an open Brad Davis on the left side of the penalty area. Without anyone on him, the former MetroStars midfielder took a couple of steps placed a relatively easy 13-yard shot to the left of Robles for a 1-1 deadlock.
"I was stunned, I was absolutely stunned," Robles said. "When that ball was played across and he just intercepted like that, what a crappy situation to be in.”
Robles was still optimistic.
"We still felt even after giving up that goal, we had momentum and I think on the field thought we were going to win,” he said. “It hurts, definitely."
NY: Bradley Wright-Phillips 1 (unassisted) 23’
HOU: Brad Davis 1 (unassisted) 36’
HOU: Omar Cummings 2 (Cam Weaver 1, Kofi Sarkodie 1) 104’
NY: Brandon Barklage (caution) 25’
HOU: Corey Ashe (caution) 93’
New York Red Bulls – Luis Robles, Brandon Barklage (Peguy Luyindula 105’), Markus Holgersson, Ibrahim Sekagya, David Carney, Lloyd Sam (Eric Alexander 75’), Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Jonny Steele, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Fabian Espindola 63’), Thierry Henry
Substitutes Not Used: Ryan Meara, Roy Miller, Kosuke Kimura, Matt Miazga
Houston Dynamo – Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Eric Brunner, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe, Boniek Garcia, Warren Creavalle (Andrew Driver 69’), Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Giles Barnes (Cam Weaver 99’), Will Bruin (Omar Cummings 64’)
Substitutes Not Used: Tyler Deric, Mike Chabala, Alexander Lopez, Servando Carrasco
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Referee’s Assistants: Daniel Belleau, Peter Manikowski
4th Referee: Geoff Gamble