An unexpected early red card shown to Thierry Henry changed the dynamic of the game and could have much larger implications for the team's playoff hopes.
After the New York Red Bulls appeared to be pulling things together in the final weeks of the 2011 season, the club's trip to Kansas City was a tragic reality check that even if New York makes the playoffs, their season may not go much farther.
Midweek comments from the team indicated New York was preparing to bunker down against the usually relentless Sporting Kansas City attack. The same lineup that beat the L.A. Galaxy at home let SKC dominate possession for the early part of the match when disaster struck. Thierry Henry collided with Roger Espinoza who was on the ground and the ref pulled out a red card immediately.
While replays showed Henry did not blatantly attempt to hurt Espinoza and it may have been just a freak accident, the Red Bulls' captain has played innocent far too many times to garner any sympathy or leniency from the officiating crew. The lack of any review process in Major League Soccer for red cards except in cases of mistaken identity guarantees that regardless of Henry's intent or awareness of Espinoza on the ground, New York will be without their top goal scorer for their final match of the season which may require three points in order to make the playoffs.
Upon Henry's ejection, Rafa Marquez was given the captain's armband and continued his improved form in the midfield. The Red Bulls conceded the first of two goals early in the second half, and from there raised the white flag substituting Juan Agudelo for Luke Rodgers and eventually bringing on Mehdi Ballouchy and Stephane Auvray to rest Teemu Tainio and Rafa Marquez for New York's crucial Thursday night matchup at home against Philadelphia.
Was referee Kevin Stott a little over zealous showing Henry straight red? Can New York pull off a win to clinch a playoff spot on Thursday night? All eyes will be on Portland vs. DC United on Wednesday night but the fact remains for New York "win and you're in."