The New York Red Bulls won their opening, wild-card match in the MLS Playoffs Wednesday, beating FC Dallas 2-0. With the win, the Red Bulls move on to face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 30 (ESPN/ESPN2).
Led by Landon Donovan and David Beckham, the Galaxy were the top MLS team during the regular season. But before moving on to that game, let's survey reactions from the Red Bulls wild-card victory.
M.L. Conroy of SB Nation's blog Once A Metro notes that the Red Bulls were fortunate to stay in this game:
It must be noted, however, that the deceptively comfortable scoreline masks a performance which often, especially during the match's first half hour, exhibited hallmarks of the sluggish Red Bulls fans have seen too often this season.
Dallas was far the brighter team in the game's opening stages, as the Red Bulls struggled to move the ball out of their own half and lacked both movement and purpose. With a sparse crowd in Frisco, you'd be hard-pressed to recognize this as a crucial playoff game, but the FC Dallas players are no doubt used to playing without a great deal of home support.
The New York Times' Tom Spousta focused on the Red Bulls surge of momentum:
"We had to go down to the wire to even make the playoffs," Red Bulls Coach Hans Backe said. "But I felt the last two sessions we had a relaxed team. Probably the best two sessions we had this season. It’s been the right time perhaps for us to peak."
F.C. Dallas outshot the Red Bulls, 23-12, but in a testament to a defense that survived by a jersey thread, the Red Bulls had only a 9-6 deficit in shots on goal.
"Our defense played unreal," Backe said. "It was like a heavyweight championship fight, playing very solid and not taking any big risks. The key for us was our defense."
At Goal.com, Allen Ramsey breaks down the winning formula the Red Bulls used to stop the FC Dallas attack:
New York's plan to keep Hernandez in check was simple enough. Striker Thierry Henry tracked Dallas' deep-lying midfielder and made passes to him from the back line difficult to come by.
Dallas' inability to cope with that tactical move by Hans Backe made life tough on the Hoops throughout the evening, as the team struggled to find the balls in behind New York's defense that Hernandez so often provides.
Brian Straus heaps praise on Joel Lindpere at SportingNews.com:
(Thierry) Henry has the gaudy stats, salary and pedigree and forward Luke Rodgers, who missed Wednesday night’s game with a knee injury, scores timely goals and brings energy. But Lindpere is a hallmark of consistency on a maddeningly inconsistent team.
... Unlike (Luke) Rodgers, Lindpere stays healthy. Unlike Henry, he maintains his discipline. Lindpere was one of only seven MLS players to start all 34 regular season games, and he chipped in seven goals and seven assists to the Red Bulls’ cause. He stays engaged for 90 minutes and attacks and defends with equal vigor, which stands out on a team built around the listless Rafa Márquez and befuddling Tim Ream.
BigAppleSoccer.com ended its game story with a quote from Henry on facing the Galaxy next:
We won against Dallas, but we know it's going to be way more difficult against LA. We have seen it in the league this year. We know it's not going to be easy. Don't get me wrong. We are in a better situation now, they way we are playing mentally. The team looks much stronger because we are playing as a team. I know now, everybody's is going to say, 'LA against the Red Bulls is going to be a big game.' But they are the favorites. We'll try to cause an upset."