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Red Bulls 1, San Jose 0: New York Takes First Game In MLS Cup Semifinals

SANTA CLARA, CA The New York Red Bulls took control of their two-leg Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday night, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes, 1-0, at Buck Shaw Stadium behind a Joel Lindpere second half strike and a stout defensive performance. New York now heads into its home leg at Red Bull Arena on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 8:00 PM with a key one-goal advantage.

Under the aggregate goal semifinal format, the team that scores the most goals in the two legs will advance to the Eastern Conference Final – a game against either the Columbus Crew or Colorado Rapids that the top seeded Red Bulls would host if they were to win the series.

It was an end to end game between New York, the Eastern Conference regular season champion, and playoff wild card San Jose, and it took only two minutes for the game’s first scoring chance, as Earthquakes Designated Player Geovanni threatened New York’s goal with a volley that zipped across the goal frame. Three minutes later, the Red Bulls forced goalkeeper Jon Busch to make his first save of the match, as midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy’s point blank header from a Chris Albright pass was pushed away. Soon after, Busch was called upon again, this time parrying a Lindpere shot out of bounds.

In the 32nd minute, Ballouchy again nearly put his name on the scoresheet. The Moroccan gathered the ball from Juan Pablo Angel and curled a shot towards the right post that skipped just wide. The best chance of the opening stanza for either team came with a minute left in the half. Angel headed the ball into the air in the penalty box and Busch could not haul it in. The ball fell to Lindpere, whose blast was cleared off the line by defender Jason Hernandez.

In the second half, both sides continued to push for the first goal. Red Bulls midfielder Rafa Marquez fired a shot towards the left post that Busch tipped.

After putting San Jose under pressure, the Red Bulls broke through in the 56th minute. Angel put in a cross that was headed down by Earthquakes defender Brandon McDonald. The ball dropped to Lindpere, who controlled it and hit a short-angle shot from 10 yards out from the left side past Busch and into the back of the net.

Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, making his first MLS start and becoming the first Red Bulls Academy player to start and feature in a MLS playoff game, almost doubled the visitors’ lead four minutes later, shooting it at Busch by the left upright. Moments after, the 17-year-old U.S. Youth National Team standout and fourth youngest player to start a playoff game in League history, stripped Scott Sealy of possession and went in alone on goal. His ensuing attempt was blocked by a diving Busch.

The Earthquakes’ best opportunity to tie the game came seven minutes from full time. San Jose substitute Eduardo got on the end of a deflected Chris Wondolowski shot but the Brazilian’s attempt slammed off the right post. In second half stoppage time, Coundoul went to make a full extension save from a Bobby Convey try to preserve the shutout.