The New York Red Bulls knew they had to get a positive result at Stade Saputo against the Montreal Impact, who were already eliminated from contention, for the chance to host a first round playoff game.
But, with the Impact playing the role of spoiler, the Red Bulls were defeated by a final of three goals to nil.
While the Impact relished the spoiler role, the Red Bulls helped them by playing flat and uninspired the entire match. The opening goal came in the 23rd minute, with an added insult to injury.
As Tim Parker tried to play the ball, it pinballed between his legs and then got plucked out by Montreal striker Orji Okwonkwo. Kyle Duncan raced to track back, but pulled up lame as he approached the box, leaving Okwonkwo with an easy pass to Bojan Krkic, who converted past Luis Robles.
Then, in the 37th minute, the strangest of situations came about as the Red Bulls lost concentration again, allowing the Impact another goal. Jukka Raitala got sprung for an attacking run, but everything looked fine as Michael Murillo, who came on for the injured Duncan, got in position to cleanly win the ball.
But Murillo then nudged Raitala down inside the area, a possible penalty that was not called. While the whistle never blew from the referee, Luis Robles stopped playing and argued the situation, and Maximiliano Urruti took full advantage of a gaffe from Murillo and converted from a tough angle.
Robles was either arguing an offside when Raitala got sprung for the attacking run, or he was complaining about a dive inside his area by Raitala. Either way, play was never whistled to stop, and Urruti was on top of the situation.
The final nail in the coffin came in the 62nd minute, as Okwonkwo was able to run behind and chest in a cross. While Robles claimed handball, VAR checked and the goal was confirmed.
In the other two Decision Day games with playoff implications for the Red Bulls, Toronto FC defeated the Columbus Crew by a goal to nil, while FC Cincinnati, down to nine men due to two straight red cards, held D.C. United to a goalless draw. The results mean TFC will be the fourth seed and host D.C. in the first round, while the Red Bulls drop down to sixth.
This means New York, who were in prime position to host in the first round because of D.C.’s result, will instead travel down I-95 to face the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Oct. 20.
It will be the very first time these two sides face each other in the playoffs, setting up a meeting with much more than bragging rights up for grabs.