Needing a win or a tie to qualify for the postseason, and missing their leading scorer Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls delivered one of their best performances of the year, edging Philadelphia 1-0 in a testy, nervy game that booked their spot in the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs.
Dane Richards got the game’s only goal, in the 8th minute, heading Jan Gunnar Solli’s cross against the left post and in off the back of Union keeper Faryd Mondragon. The official ruling was an own goal, but if MLS had a Dubious Goals Panel (as the EPL amusingly dubs its committee on these things), we believe they’d give the tally to Richards. (They still could. UPDATE: And … they did. )
In any event, New York made the goal stand up, and nearly added to their lead on several occasions against a Philadelphia team gunning for first place in the Eastern Conference.
A number of Red Bulls produced gut-check performances, from Solli, who was Man of the Match, to holding midfielder Teemu Tainio (runner-up, in our view), Dax McCarty (bulldogging all over the place), Stephen Keel, Tim Ream, and yes…wait for it…Rafa Marquez. The Mexico captain had a few unforced errors, but mostly he was a calming presence in midfield who possessed the ball well and occasionally pulled strings to spring New York attacks.
If the real season starts with the playoffs, then New York heads into theirs on a positive note. They won’t know their wild-card opponent, or overall seeding, until this weekend’s schedule plays out. They could finish ninth or 10th depending on the remaining Week 32 results.
The wild-card round kicks off next Wednesday, Oct 26.