DRAMATIC CAHILL EQUALIZER EARNS RED BULLS PLAYOFF SPOT

The New York Red Bulls meet the the New England Revolution at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ on Saturday, October 5, 2013. © Samindra Kunti

The New York Red Bulls meet the the New England Revolution at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ on Saturday, October 5, 2013.
© Samindra Kunti

Samindra Kunti – The New York Red Bulls clinched their birth in the MLS postseason after a dramatic tie at home to New England Revolution. Fabian Espindola put the Red Bulls ahead after fourteen minutes, but goals from Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez turned the game upside down in the second half before Tim Cahill snatched a injury time equalizer. The Red Bulls are now on a streak of six unbeaten games.

After a superb performance by the Red Bulls away to the Seattle Sounders last week, rookie coach Mike Petke nonetheless urged for caution in the run-up to the game against the New England Revolution. “I expect a very difficult game, obviously looking for that playoff spot – the last playoff spot. They are a dangerous team. They have their punch to go forward…” he said.

Petke´s worries proved to be unfounded in the first half as the Red Bulls dominated proceedings. Thierry Henry opened hostilities after merely two minutes when his audacious looping header nearly took Revolution´s goalkeeper Matt Reis by surprise.

Fourteen minutes into the game, Espindola gave the hosts the lead when he intercepted a nonchalant pass from Scott Caldwell and slotted it home from just outside the box. It was a fine finish from Espindola, his ninth of the season putting him on par with Henry and Cahill. He should have made it two in the 24th minute, but failed to convert Henry´s floating cross from the right.

By now the visitors were struggling: Revolution´s midfield proved lightweight as prodigy Fagundez was neutralized. Stoke-bound Juan Agudelo operated in isolation up front with the Red Bulls holding a decent shape defensively. Without support, Agudelo´s hold up play was futile. The visible disorder pervading Jay Heaps´ team was in stark contrast with the all round energy the Red Bulls demonstrated.

For all their slick movement and passing, the Red Bulls were only one up at the break. The Revolution in fact had more shots on target, two to one, during the first half. The Red Bulls have clearly developed a bad habit of contentment when in a slender lead and a position to seal the game with another goal. It was no different against the Revolution.

And Petke´s  XI almost paid for their complacency. Henry´s curling shot from the edge of the box was denied by a Reis’ flying save and Andrew Farell´s intervention neutralized Lloyd Sam’s point blank shot inside the box, but at the other end the Revolution showed more urgency, trying to pin back the Red Bulls into their own half.

Last week Petke lauded Luis Robbles for producing an outstanding, if not match-winning, save every game and Robbles did almost that with another fine save to deny Saer Sene from a few yards out after 62 minutes. Robbles´ quick reflexes lifted the ball over the crossbar. Heaps switched to three at the back with fourteen minutes left when he sacrificed his captain A.J. Soares for Dimitry Imbongo.

The visitors pegged the Red Bulls after 85 minutes when referee Fotis Bazakos awarded the Revolution a penalty for a questionable hand ball by Jamison Olave in the penalty area. Lee Nguyen converted from the penalty spot.

Then Andrew Dorman got sent off for studs-up, enabling the hosts to launch an all out siege in search of a winner. But a turnover deep into Red Bulls territory allowed Diego Fagundez to pounce and steer the ball past a powerless Robbles. Inside the space of six minutes, the Revolution had turned the game on its head.

Only for Tim Cahill to emerge as the Red Bulls’ saviour in the seventh minute of injury time: Reis pushed Jonathan Steel’s free kick out of the danger zone: Tim Cahill backed off, positioned himself near the penalty and headed the loose ball with precision over the pack of players and Reis into the net.

Cahill proved again that he is the lynchpin of this Red Bulls side: the dynamo in midfield, he is multifaceted player with the lungs of a horse. Luis Robbles acknowledged the importance of Cahill after the game. “He embodies everything this team wants to be, from the character to just the hard work and he has had an incredible season,” he said.

The Red Bulls earned their way to the postseason the hard way against Revolution and with two remaining games in the regular season – away to Houston and at home against Chicago – the aim is to try and win the Supporters Shield, which goes to the number one team overall in the regular season.

Match details:

New York Red Bulls 2, New England Revolution 2
October 5, 2013 – Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
MLS Regular Season

Scoring Summary:
NY: Fabian Espindola 9 (unassisted) 14’
NE: Lee Nguyen 4 (penalty kick) 85’
NE: Diego Fagundez 12 (unassisted) 91’+
NY: Tim Cahill 10 (unassisted) 97’+

New York Red Bulls (15-9-8, 53 points) – Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura (Andre Akpan 91’+), Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson, David Carney, Lloyd Sam (Eric Alexander 71’), Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Jonny Steele, Fabian Espindola (Peguy Luyindula 78’), Thierry Henry.

New England Revolution (11-11-9, 42 points) – Matt Reis, Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares (Dimitry Imbongo 76’), Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney, Scott Caldwell (Andy Dorman 56’), Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Saer Sene, Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo (Jerry Bengtson 79’).

Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Attendance: 25,219 (sellout)

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