Back in September, Manager Hans Backe predicted that the New York Red Bulls would need 45 points to punch their ticket for the MLS playoffs. With a convincing 1-0 win on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Union, New York finished with 46 points and qualified for their second straight postseason.
Despite Red Bull Arena looking a little empty at kickoff, most fans had found their seats in time for some early excitement in the eighth minute when Dane Richards headed a cross from Jan Gunnar Solli that deflected off the post and Philadlephia Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon and into the back of the net. Originally scored as an own-goal, upon further review MLS credited Richards with the tally, his seventh of the season.
Missing Thierry Henry due to his red card against Sporting Kansas City, Hans Backe moved Dane Richards up top next to Dane Richards and started Dax McCarty on the right wing. McCarty and Jan Gunnar Solli partnered well on the right side, and moving Dax back to the bench when Henry returns is an unfortunate reality of a team with too many midfielders.
Moving forward, the Red Bulls have qualified as a wild card and will compete in a play-in against FC Dallas, Colorado, or Houston, depending how the weekend's matches shake out. Houston is hosting the LA Galaxy on Sunday, and Bruce Arena has already indicated he intends to bring a young squad and rest many of his best players. FC Dallas has clinched the top wildcard spot and plays at San Jose, while Colorado will head to Vancouver where the Whitecaps are expected to put up a solid fight in front of their home crowd.
An interesting scenario to consider: if Houston wins and Colorado loses, therefore sending the Rapids as the #4 wildcard to Dallas or Salt Lake, that leaves two Eastern conference teams as the #2 and #3 wildcards. If Columbus also wins at Chicago, one of the play-in matches could have some real appeal: Philadelphia hosting New York.