On a cool and clear evening in the Northeast, the two most talented sides in the Eastern Conference were facing each other. One was trying to climb the standings, while the other wanting to clinch home field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Tonight was the final regular season home match for the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, and if you thought a scoreless draw was boring you needed to watch what was going on at Harrison, NJ. From the first minute till the last the Red Bulls had plenty of chances to convert at least up to four or five goals, but only one man was able to prevent them from getting on the score sheet and it was Jimmy Nielsen.
No matter who had the best chance on the offensive side of the ball, Nielsen came up big and was a brick wall for Sporting Kansas City. He put himself in perfect position every single time the Red Bulls had a shot on goal. There’s little denying that Nielsen should win Goalkeeper of the Year in MLS.
“If you look at us going to the US Open Cup and winning it and all season long being at the top of the Eastern table, he’s a big reason for it,” said Head Coach Peter Vermes, “We made him Captain this season and he has become a tremendous leader. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out but he has 15 to 16 shutouts this year.”
But when you talk about tonight’s performance from the Red Bulls, it looks like they have cured themselves of coughing up the first goal within the first fifteen minutes of the match. They played strong and never allowed themselves to get behind at all.
Luis Robles had no problems tonight till the 85th minute, when Kei Kamara tried to head in a cross and it went right to Robles. The former Karlsruher man pushed the ball away from his left and it was cleared by Connor Lade. But overall it was a performance that pleased Hans Backe as a prelude to heading down to Philadelphia for one final derby of the regular season.
“It’s definitely one of the better games we have played, over 90 minutes that was intense. A lot of energy (with) many, many chances to score, we should’ve won the game,” said Backe, “So one of the few games you can be pleased about it being 0-0, but I’m pleased with the performance.”
Before the match got underway there was a moment of applause for slain Red Bulls youth coach Mike Jones. A native of Liverpool, England, Mr. Jones was coaching for West Harrison in Westchester County, New York. After a long night out in the city he was leaving a bar near Union Square when his attacker stabbed him, cut his throat, and sliced his left ear off.
At the moment the man who did this horrible deed has fled to Mexico where he is in hiding. A taskforce of the NYPD is being helped by Mexican police authorities to search for him and to bring him back to face justice for his crimes.
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