In the wake of their season-ending 1-0 loss to DC United Thursday night in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, it dawned on me today what the New York Red Bulls are. They are the Dallas Cowboys of the MLS -- under-achievers. The Red Bulls are a supremely talented team that, for the past few years, never seems to add up to the sum of their parts.
Throughout the two-match aggregate series, DC United players said again and again in a variety of ways that they knew the Red Bulls had more talent on the field than they did, but that they felt in the end that team would trump talent. In the end, it did.
Yes, DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was spectacular with five saves, a couple of them brilliant, before being red-carded. The Red Bulls, though, outshot DC 18-8 and have only themselves to blame for watching another season end too early in Harrison, N.J.
After Hamid was red-carded in the 69th minute, rightly, for taking down Kenny Cooper in the penalty area, Cooper buried the penalty kick to give the Red Bulls an apparent 1-0 lead. Referee Mark Geiger, though, negated the goal by calling the Red Bulls for encroachment.
The Red Bulls can and will complain bitterly about the call, but it was correct. At least two, possibly three, Red Bulls including Thierry Henry clearly encroached on the play. Geiger, per the television broadcast, has a well-known reputation for being a stickler on penalty-kick rules. The Red Bulls had to know Geiger's reputation and have only themselves to blame for being careless. Cooper's second try, of course, was stopped by substitute keeper Joe Willis.
Even after the failed penalty kick, however, the red card gave New York a man advantage. Rafa Marquez, the bitterly disappointing Designated Player, hurt the New York cause with a foolish challenge, though, earning his second yellow card and being sent off, killing the man advantage.
Henry again figured in a disappointing play late in the match. Trailing 1-0 with a direct kick from just outside the penalty area Henry chose to step away and allow Roy Miller -- yes, Roy Miller -- to take the kick that was really New York's last hope of saving its season.
What Henry was thinking is incomprehensible. It was, however, an appropriate way to wrap another disappointing season for the Red Bulls -- a team that should be so much more than it actually is.