Painful memories of last year’s disappointed run were reminiscent within the New York Red Bulls team in the second half after they saw a red card that was caused by a malicious and uncalled for tackle by Jamison Olave, giving Houston the one man advantage. Last year, the much hated Rafa Marquez received a red during a playoff game against DC United that demolished their chances of passing through the next round. A bad portent could be among us if the first leg was anything to go by.
Heading into this game, head coach Mike Petke had a specific game plan in mind in order to succeed at BBVA stadium. Given that the field is narrower than most fields, the possession game was out of the question for New York and settled for a much relaxed counter attack style of play. Eagerly awaiting that a moment to pounce at the opposition, New York saw less of the ball in the first half as they were bombarded by the Houston’s attacking force. As a result, Petke’s team executed the plan beautifully at least in the first half.
In just 22 minutes in, the New York Red Bulls recorded their first shot on target, and their first goal. Defender David Carney received a ball on the left side of the field and spotted Thierry Henry going wide to an open space. Carney passed it perfectly to Henry, where then the Frenchman only waited for a few moments before sending in an exceptional ball into the box, finding Tim Cahill’s head and connecting for the 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later New York found themselves doubling their lead when they found the opportune moment to land in another blow against their already staggered opponent. After recovering the ball from their own defensive end, McCarty found Tim Cahill on the other side of the field. Cahill, under pressured by the Houston defenders, looked to his right shoulder to discover a sprinting Eric Alexander down the flanks. Alexander then took the ball to the box, only to fake out his marker and shoot the ball with his left foot into the lower right corner, leaving the Houston goalkeeper helpless.
During halftime, everything was going so well for the Supporter’s Shield winners, it seemed that they were going back home with a win and a better chance of going through the next round. But of course, this is the New York Red Bulls we are talking about, a team that is known for embarrassing blunders and a disappointing mentality.
The second half saw a more determined Houston Dynamo, who were pushing even harder to find that one goal. It only took them five minutes since the second half started to grab that goal.
After a terrible clearance from Carney, the ball found its way to Ricardo Clark’s feet, where he would then settle the ball before blasting the ball into goal. The goal brought the stadium to its feet and rejuvenated Houston.
Things got worse as the game went on when Olave committed a scissors kick slide from the back of Houston forward Omar Cummings, leaving referee Ricardo Salazar no choice but to award him for his ridiculous tackle a red card. Olave, who is no stranger to red cards, really left his team in a tough spot because of a tackle that he really did not need commit to in the first place. It was reckless and silly, and with the MLS Cup on the line, he should have known better not to tackle like that from behind the back, especially when he knows that Salazar is not afraid to show a straight red (just ask any Seattle Sounder fan).
As the game progressed, it seemed that New York were going to be lucky enough to walk away from Houston with a win but Cummings had a different idea in mind.
In extra time, Brad Davis delivered a corner kick that found Bobby Boswell’s head, whose header was saved by New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. He was unable to grab a hold of the ball, however, and Cummings found a time to pounce on the claimless ball and drive it into the net.
As the final whistle blew, New York looked like a beaten team with their heads down and running straight to the locker room. Although they still have another leg at Red Bull Arena, they blew their chances of going back home with a two goal advantage because of silly mistakes. Now they will hope to bounce back from the disappointing tie and show Houston why they are the Supporter Shield’s winner.