The Red Bulls are in the post season for the third time in three years, but the circumstances are less than pleasing.
It was a weird evening at Red Bull Arena.
For one, Red Bulls fans have rarely walked out of Red Bull Arena this year feeling as if they should've won, but didn't. Last night, if it were a boxing match, the Red Bulls would've won in a unanimous decision. They dominated possession, seeing 64 percent of the ball. They had 10 shots, 5 on goal, versus Sporting Kansas City's 6 and 1. They completed more passes than Kansas City attempted. When the Red Bulls were threatening, it took some magic on the part of Jimmy Nielsen to keep Sporting in the game.
On top of that, the Red Bulls had to pull for either D.C. United or the Philadelphia Union to win to get in. D.C. obliged, scoring a late goal to down the Columbus Crew 3-2, vaulting the Red Bulls into the playoffs for the third consecutive year less than an hour after the final whistle blew at Red Bull Arena.
What matters, I suppose, is that the Red Bulls are in the playoffs, which can be a bit of a crapshoot when it comes down to it, but eschewing the "win and you're in fashion" for being dragged into the playoffs kicking and screaming by your most hated rival is concerning.
Beep, beep, beep, indeed.
Going 1-2-2 in your last five isn't convincing. Dropping two home games -- remember Fort RBA? -- to playoff teams isn't convincing. The one win: Stomping an embattled Toronto FC side with little to play for, isn't convincing either, as spectacular as it was.
Last night was promising. They came out with a game plan -- keep possession, poke and prod at SKC's defense and break down their shape -- and, for the most part, executed it. They just couldn't finish and that's what matters. Games aren't decided by percentage of possession, they're determined by who scores more goals.
So the result doesn't inspire confidence, despite the stats.
It's down to one game to "get hot" as it were and build some confidence on the road (what we all hope is) the MLS Cup. Because the cup often goes to the hottest team, not the best team, though it remains to be seen if 90 minutes is enough to catch fire.