Dane Richards, right, of the New York Red Bulls celebrates his goal in the 17th minute with teammate Mehdi Ballouchy against the New England Revolution on October 21 2010 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
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HARRISON, N.J. (Oct. 21, 2010) – After finishing in last place just a year ago, the New York Red Bulls completed one of the greatest one-season turnarounds in Major League Soccer history, clinching first place in the Eastern Conference Thursday night after a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution at Red Bull Arena in the final regular season game of the year for both teams. New York improved to 51 points off a 15-9-6 record and has an insurmountable four-point lead over Columbus, which hosts Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Red Bulls, which has experienced a 10 win turnaround from a year before, head into the MLS Cup Playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and have home field advantage through the conference semifinals and potential final. The 10 win margin equals the mark set by the 2000 New York squad that was also the only other team to finish first in the Eastern Conference.
New York kicks off its postseason on the road next week against a yet to be determined Western Conference opponent before returning to Red Bull Arena on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 8:00 PM (TV: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3;) for the second leg of the home-and-home Eastern Conference aggregate goal semifinal series. Tickets for that match are available by calling 1.877.RBSOCCER or logging onto www.newyorkredbulls.com.
The Red Bulls took the lead in the 17th minute. After the Revolution lost the ball in New York’s half, forward Juan Pablo Angel found a streaking Dane Richards down the right wing. Richards drove towards goal and fired a shot from 16 yards out past Bobby Shuttleworth for his fifth goal in seven games.
Richards nearly doubled his tally three minutes later close to the same position, one-timing a Mehdi Ballouchy feed over the bar. In the 30th minute, Richards was the provider, sliding the ball to an on-rushing Salou Ibrahim, who rolled an attempt just past the right upright.
New England’s best chance of the interval came in first half stoppage time, as Sainey Nyassi had space on the right side of the penalty box and blasted an attempt that goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul could only parry away.
Three minutes into the second half, the Revolution almost took advantage of a cross that Coundoul dropped in the six yard box. However, Ilija Stolica and Shalrie Joseph’s shots were blocked and the Red Bulls were able to clear the danger. Ten minutes later, Stolica tried to test Coundoul from an acute angle, but the ball skirted across the face of goal.
The Red Bulls secured the three points and their first victory in 15 MLS games over their I-95 neighbor in the second minute of added time. Substitute Tony Tchani chipped the ball over the top to an onside Joel Lindpere, who was through on goal. Lindpere approached Shuttleworth before cutting it around the goalkeeper and rifling it with his right foot into the vacant net.