On Thursday night it all came down to one final match in the regular season. Yes the New York Red Bulls clinched a playoff spot against the Kansas City Wizards on October 2, but this one was for home field advantage in the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs. They had the opportunity to get the job done against the New England Revolution and they passed with flying colors.
It started with a brilliant goal from Dane Richards in the 17th minute when he got a good ball from Juan Pablo Angel and it was off to the races. Richards made a great run with so much room ahead of him, he just got inside the Revs area and all of a sudden he ripped a shot that caught Bobby Shuttleworth out of position and scored inside the near post.
Their second goal came from second half stoppage time as Tony Tchani who subbed in for Rafa Marquez delivered a nice ball to Joel Lindpere into space as he was just kept on sides by a defender. As Lindpere entered the area he faked out Shuttleworth and had an open net to shoot in. That gave him his third of the season and as he scored the first goal in Red Bull Arena history, he closes out the regular season with a goal. With this victory the Red Bulls end a fifteen match losing streak against the Revolution.
Imagine, if you will, a side that has gone from only earning five wins and a total of twenty-one points. It tells you what a fantastic job Sporting Director Erik Soler and Head Coach Hans Backe has done to right the ship. “It’s phenomenal to get thirty points more than last season.” said Head Coach Hans Backe. “You can’t see anything in the world to double the amount of points from last year to this year, it’s impossible to do that. To get ten more wins is excellent.”
Veteran defender Mike Petke has been through this before. The 1999 MetroStars had a horrible season winning seven games, but turned it all around in the 2000 season. As Yogi Berra has always said “It’s Déjà Vu all over again” when Petke started with a horrible 2009 and is a part of this magical season. “There are some similarities from that 2000 team” said Petke. “If you put Angel, Henry, Marquez and Lindpere on that 2000 team, we would’ve ran away with the Eastern Conference.”
For a long time since Major League Soccer started in 1996 there was this opinion that the MetroStars (the original name) was supposed to be the flagship club for this league. I think that is the ultimate kiss of death made by anyone who is associated with jinxes and curses. When Nicola Caricola scored that own goal at Giants Stadium in the clubs first home opener, that’s when everything went wrong.
Without excusing the 2000 MetroStars I have to say that for the very first time as a supporter and a reporter covering them, this feels like a real club going out on the field with the confidence and swagger that was never displayed before. You always have the feeling that sooner or later something wrong was going to happen towards the end of the season and it never did.
Now the players will get a couple of days off to rest and hopefully will be refreshed and ready for training to face their opponents in either Colorado Rapids or the San Jose Earthquakes. The playoffs are back for the Red Bulls and the New York City Tri-State Area.
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