The last berth in the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs was finalized last night when the New York Red Bulls beat Philadelphia Union 1-0 (on an own goal) to qualify for the playoffs, this ending the playoff dreams of Portland Timbers and Chicago Fire.
It was an early goal that would stand for the final 90 minutes of the regular season for the Red Bulls. An eighth minute tally was scored from a great run when Dax McCarty laid it off to a charging Jan Gunnar Solli and crossed it to Dane Richards who headed the ball off the inside of the near post and then off the back of Faryd Mondragon and over the goal line.
Even though it was an own goal, it didn’t dampen the excitement at Red Bull Arena as the crowd screamed with joy. All first half the club was attacking as the Union looked to be sleepwalking. Several times the Red Bulls were able to break through the defense only to have Mondragon make the big saves.
Peter Nowak knew right away he had to make changes at halftime and did so by bringing in Freddy Adu and Danny Mwanga to start the second half. Right away they paid dividends and brought life back into the Union’s attack. But the hard stance by the defenders stopped nearly every chance and when the Union thought they scored, it was in an offside position.
After the final whistle blew the Red Bulls were officially the last side to enter the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs and did so with their backs to the wall. They performed well without the services of Thierry Henry who was serving a one match suspension for his red card at Kansas City.
“I think we handled the game well of course there were some nervous plays in a game that means so much to qualify for the playoffs,” said Head Coach Hans Backe. “It has been a rough season, but now that we are in, I believe we should have killed this game in the first half. [We] definitely could have put the score up two or three nil after 60 minutes, but they stayed in the game.”
“We feel really good,” said Dane Richards, “But now’s the time where the real work starts. From here on we can’t lose, so it’s real important we stay focused.” After all the club has been through, New York was touted at the start of the season to reach the MLS Cup Final and having a huge hole in the road, we shall see if they can reach that goal.
Thursday night saw a fantastic crowd with over a thousand Philadelphia Union Supporters visiting Red Bull Arena and taking over at least four full sections in the second deck in the Northern End. It was a fantastic atmosphere between the Son’s Of Ben and the South Ward (that had the Garden State Supporters, Empire Supporters Club and the Hans Backe Viking Army).