Saturday night was a big night for the New York Red Bulls as they finally had destiny in their own hands. It was a big match for the club as they needed a single win to put themselves into the postseason and you thought this was going to be a goal fest from the beginning of the match. It was a sixth minute tally from Dane Richards on the far side of the area that put the Red Bulls in front as he stripped Jimmy Conrad and scored a nice shot inside the near post.”I saw him taking his time to clear it” said Richards “So I snuck in there and got it.”
After a great start to the match it all went from fantastic night to fright fest as the Kansas City Wizards kept on attacking and abusing the left side of the field. All night long the Wizards made many attacking runs and got into great position for some solid chances. The wall that was blocking the net was Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul. He stopped all twelve shots on goal and they were spectacular. Diving save after diving save by Coundoul to keep the ball out of the net, he was ready for anything and he sounded very confident after the match.
“The way I see the game, I have to step up to do my best” said Coundoul. “Every single day I don’t have that mentality, even when we lose, I will always try to do my best.” And it was definitely “Bouna Time” at Red Bull Arena. In the 58th minute Coundoul raced off his line and covered the near side corner of the area. A shot by Teal Bunbury was stopped, but got the rebound. It was a one on one between Coundoul and Bunbury and in Bouna’s mind he wanted a challenge. “He froze for five seconds and in my mind I said dribble me, dribble me. I got him into my game and stopped him.” Another big save by Coundoul went off his fingertips in the 75th minute as he was going for the top shelf. “He (Coundoul) was the difference in the game for sure” said Wizards head coach Peter Vermes. “The one he made on the end by Jack Jewsbury, that ball’s going in the upper 90.”
But while this was a strong performance for Coundoul, this was not a great performance for the club all together. In fact Hans Backe was not happy at all. Mexico’s National Team Captain Rafa Marquez was suffering from a left knee contusion that he got at training on Friday and gave it a chance during warm ups for tonight’s game. Sadly he couldn’t go and the man who is a calming influence on the field wasn’t there for the full ninety minutes. “This is not the kind of football I would like to see” said Hans Backe. “It’s okay to get three points, but the decision making, the passing game, the unforced errors when you’re not under pressure, how to get the ball to create something. To me, just a mess for ninety minutes. We looked, as a team, like we started back in April.” You can tell this club relies a lot on Marquez to calm the play down and not force anything on the field. “He’s very precise and he can open up the game when you are under pressure.”
But when it’s all said and done the Red Bulls got the win, clinched their playoff berth and once they found out that the Crew and the Earthquakes ended their match in a scoreless draw, they retook first place in the Eastern Conference leading by two points. So after everything they went through last season the Red Bulls finally are back in the MLS Cup Playoffs in front of a crowd that was 201 people short of a sellout.