10 things we learned from the second legs of MLS’s conference finals
Both home teams had mountains to climb, both gave it their all, and both were fairly turned back.
3. The Red Bulls Never Showed Up
Sure, Bradley Wright-Phillips hitting the post in the last minute of the game was pretty damn Metro, but there’s no way the Red Bulls deserved to equalize and send the game to extra time. Not only was Wright-Phillips offside, but as Dax McCarty acknowledged afterwards, Columbus dominated the series to a somewhat shocking degree.
The Red Bulls never really showed up until it was too late. Whether it was fatigue from a season of high-pressing and minimal squad rotation or the superiority of the Crew, New York didn’t look like themselves.
That they got pulled apart defensively routinely wasn’t exactly a surprise – Damien Perrinelle was a huge loss. The real killer was Red Bulls’ trio of McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Felipe playing two of their worst games of the season. McCarty and Kljestan were particularly disappointing, and pitted against Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani, the midfield was a mismatch that turned the series towards Columbus.
This was, of course, a tremendous season for the Red Bulls and a triumphant season for their management. Not only was the firing of Mike Petke and hiring of Jesse Marsch vindicated, but increased attendance showed that fans will support a team without any marquee players as long as it wins.
Still, this loss hurts. MLS Cup is the prize everyone covets, and this year marks the team’s sixth straight playoff appearance without a berth in the final.
SEE MORE: FC Dallas and the birth of MLS 3.0.
4. Dallas Needs a Forward
The Portland Timbers were a better team than FC Dallas – tougher, more organized, and more experienced – but the margins were fairly close. The biggest difference between the two teams was at striker. Fanendo Adi, who has 18 goals this season and has now dominated Kendall Waston and Matt Hedges in consecutive series, is elite. David Texeira, on the other hand, is a disaster.
His goal in the first leg notwithstanding, Texeira’s presence meant that Dallas was more or less playing with a hand tied behind its back. It was no coincidence that in both the second leg against Seattle and versus Portland, Oscar Pareja’s team only started its charge once Tesho Akindele and Blas Perez were inserted.
Akindele probably should have started instead of Texeira, but he’s not a number one forward yet, while Perez can’t play 90 minutes anymore and is probably a year away from retirement.