Harrison, N.J. – The New England Revolution brought their Road Warrior act to a packed Red Bull Arena Sunday afternoon defeating New York 2-1, and putting Thierry Henry’s chances of hoisting an MLS Cup on his way out of Major League Soccer in serious jeopardy.
With Henry widely assumed to be playing his final games as a New York Red Bull, the red hot New England Revolution rolled into Harrison with a large and loud supporters section in tow to cheer them on.
New York’s fans passionately responded to the Revs supporters while also generating their own enthusiasm, and Red Bull Arena was alive with playoff fever. Seldom, if ever have the Red Bulls or their predecessors, the MetroStars, generated an atmosphere to match Sunday’s, with former English Premier League star Tim Cahill comparing it to playing, “a game back in the U.K.”
The Revolution opened this season’s playoffs by decimating Columbus 4-2 at Crew Stadium, before finishing them off with a 3-1 victory at home in Gillette Stadium.
It was no surprise then that the Revs came into Red Bull Arena with confidence, and in fact a bit of swagger, led by their uber confident U.S. international Jermaine Jones.
Jones debuted for New England on August 30, making a good New England side better, and the Revolution have been on fire ever since.
The rangy veteran picked up the assist on Teal Bunbury’s opening goal on Sunday, but all glory goes to Bunbury for his fantastic left footed curler. After taking a pass from Jones, Bunbury shook free from Red Bull fullback Ambroise Oyongo before firing past Luis Robles.
Oyongo, a speedy, attack minded fullback in for suspended regular Roy Miller, is known for his offensive game, and Revolution coach Jay Heaps came in confident that Bunbury could do well against the Red Bull replacement.
“A goal and an assist was pretty good from Teal,” a happy Heaps said after the game.” Speaking of Miller’s absence, Heaps said, “it didn’t matter to us. We saw the suspension, but we know that Oyongo’s got a lot of pace and Teal’s got a lot of pace, so it’s going to be a track meet out there.”
The first half was indeed played at frenetic pace, slowed only by the distribution of yellow cards by referee Allen Chapman, who handed out four first half cautions, on the way to a match total of 10.
For all of that, there were moments of skill amid the mayhem, including both Bunbury’s goal, and Oyongo’s pass to set up in motion New York’s 27 minute equalizer. The defender eluded Bunbury before releasing Peggy Luyindula behind the Revs defense. Luyindula was stopped cold by New England keeper Bobby Shuttleworth, but the Frenchman managed to hit the crossbar with a shot from his knees.
Poacher extraordinaire Bradley Wright-Phillips was on hand to head home the second rebound and the sides were level.
Jones scored the winner in the 86th minute on a counter attack when Lee Nguyen finally freed himself from the attentions of New York midfielder Dax McCarty.
Nguyen raced at the Red Bull defense, picking out Bunbury with a well weighted pass. Bunbury’s shot/pass was met by a sliding Jones, and New York was punished for pushing for a late goal when they might have done better to settle for a draw.
New York picked up six of the 10 cards, but none were more harmful than BWP’s foolish yellow for blocking Shuttleworth’s clearance on the hour mark. As a result Wright-Phillip’s will be suspended for next Saturday’s series finale in New England, leaving New York minus its top goal scorer, at a time when they sorely need goals.
So with BWP sidelined for the showdown in New England, Thierry Henry will surely end his boycott of Gillette Stadium’s artificial surface, right? Right.
When the question was posed after the match Henry was direct. “I’m playing, you happy.”
3,000 miles west of Red Bull Arena the Los Angeles Galaxy edged the Seattle Sounders 1-0 in front of a raucous, sellout crowd of its own, sending that series to Seattle next Sunday with everything to play for.
The Galaxy dominated in front of the home crowd, but can count themselves fortunate to come away with a win, following some heroics from goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Twice Penedo turned away seemingly certain goals from Clint Dempsey, and as good the Panamanian netminder did, Deuce will be disappointed in himself for not converting on at least one of his chances.
Seattle came in down two men, Osvaldo Alonso and Lamar Neagle. Alonso’s absence through injury was expected, but Seattle also had to do without Neagle, who missed out for personal reasons.
After a period of intense pressure L.A. finally got the game’s only goal on a deflected shot from midfielder Marcelo Sarvas in the the 52nd minute. Galaxy fullback A.J. de la Garza did the spade work, finding Sarvas who needed a deflection off Sounder defender Chad Marshall to beat Stefan Frei in the Seattle goal.
The two principals in the Galaxy goal would later leave injured, perhaps tilting things Seattle’s way, if in fact Sarvas and de la Garza can’t go next week at CenturyLink.
Seattle should get a boost from the expected returns of Alonso and Neagle, but the Sounders will have to reawaken its slumbering offense if they hope to host the 2014 MLS Cup.