By: Milos Kosic
Humiliated. Outplayed. Embarrassed. Disillusioned. Those are just some of the words that can describe how the team from New York looked after the referee decided to signal for the end of the nightmare at Red Bull Arena. What was supposed to be an easy win for the hosts turned into a deserved defeat for Henry, Marquez and company.
After losing 1-0 last Saturday, the idea of San Jose Earthquakes progressing into the next round seemed irrational. Probably the Red Bulls were aware of this too, because there is no other way to explain why they entered the game seeming so disinterested.
As soon as the match started, the Quakes pushed forward, and after only six minutes, the Red Bulls’ advantage from the previous game was gone. After a cross from the right side, the defense’s clumsy reaction was punished by Bobby Convey who sent the ball high into the left corner of the goal.[picappgallerysingle id=”10131039″]
It seemed that this would wake the Red Bulls up, but that wasn’t the case. The team that had been trying so hard during the season to build a reputation let all their efforts disappear during that one night. The Red Bulls’ strategy consisted mostly of passing the ball in midfield and very slowly moving forward, as if they were afraid to attack. Despite the energetic support from the crowd, the only real chances for the team from New York came mostly through set play. On the other side, the Quakes were all over the field, fighting for every ball, and it was only thanks to goalkeeper Coundoul that the Quakes failed to double their lead in the 41st minute.
It came probably as a result of a lot of screaming done by Red Bulls Head Coach Hans Backe in the dressing room, but the Red Bulls entered the second half much more confident and eager to play. In the opening twenty five minutes they were a kind of team that the audience is used to watch in Arena – dominant in attack, confident in defense. But a series of missed chances by Ballouchy and Agudelo turned out to be even costlier in the 76th minute, when after another terrible defending; Bobby Convey was again in opportunity to freely shoot on goal. For the second time, he was on target.
Although it seemed that was the end for Red Bulls, the team managed to come back into game only two minutes after. A supreme ball sent by Agudelo, the only Red Bulls player whose performance was satisfying, found Angel alone in front of the goal. The Columbian international easily headed the ball into the net.
But that was not the end of the surprises. Only three minutes after, another goal, this time for the Earthquakes. Relatively quiet Wondolowski out-jumped the Red Bull defenders and set the final score to 1-3.
After the game, Backe defended his decision to let Henry play less than ten minutes by saying that he expected that the game would go to extra time and that Henry wasn’t ready to play for more than twenty-five minutes. But the coach’s main mistake was to, instead of Angel, take out fantastic Agudelo in the 84th minute. Agudelo was the only player who was creating chances for Red Bulls, and although Angel had scored, it was only thanks to Agudelo’s pass.
But it’s too late now to speculate about what would happen if… Great teams tend to win even when they play poorly. New York Red Bulls are not (yet) a great team. That’s why this season’s MLS title will go to someone else.