Game 1 of this two-game aggregate playoff series featured two own goals, a red card, and a missed penalty.
What could Game 2 do to top that in terms of strangeness? Well, after being pushed back a day by a November Nor’easter that dumped five inches of snow on the field, how about two red cards, a mass encroachment infraction that led to a retaken penalty that was then saved, and an 88th-minute winner against the run of play?
Welcome to another bitter, but—incredibly—not atypical, New York loss:
The Red Bulls were poised for a potential game-winning goal when Kenny Cooper was taken down in the box and D.C. keeper Bill Hamid was sent off in the 69th minute. Cooper tucked away the spot kick and New York looked to play out the final 20 minutes with a man advantage. Game over, right?
Not so fast: Referee Mark Geiger ordered the penalty retaken because several Red Bulls (and at least one D.C. player) poured into the box before Cooper took his shot.
United’s backup keeper, Joe Willis, saved the re-take and the teams stayed level at 0-0 (1-1 aggregate). For Red Bulls fans, that was bad, but hey, they still had a man advantage, they were controlling the game, and they 20 minutes to find a game-winner. They were still poised to win the game and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
Enter Rafa Marquez, the same Rafa Marquez who threw a ball at Landon Donovan in last year’s playoffs, the same Rafa Marquez who committed assault and battery on Cobi Jones at the 2002 World Cup, the same guy who criticized teammates in the press, slacked off in games, and the same Rafa Marquez who earns $4.6 million a year from Red Bull.
A scant five minutes after New York got the man advantage, Marquez gave it back, recklessly slide-tackling D.C.’s Chris Pontius to pick up his second yellow.
With the teams back on even numbers at 10 v 10, United got a late goal from Nick DeLeon and then watched as Thierry Henry let Roy Miller —Roy Miller, who hadn’t taken a free kick all season—take a last-minute free kick from just outside the box. The Costa Rican defender skied it to the 20th row and New York’s season ended in a 1-0 loss.
The franchise made several front-office changes in the wake of the crushing loss, hiring a new GM and announcing that head coach Hans Backe would not return next season. More on those later.