The New York Red Bulls have now won three straight road playoff games, dating back to 2008 when they won on the road against the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake (losing the MLS Cup final to the Columbus Crew on neutral turf at the Home Depot Center). Saturday night’s 1-0 win was a good result for the Red Bulls, who need just a tie on Thursday night at home to advance to within one game of the MLS Cup.
Four things to take from Saturday’s road win:
1) Road Warriors
Leading up to the match, head coach Hans Backe said it may be “stupid” of him to say, but the team was going out to San Jose for a win. The fact that the Red Bulls did just that was impressive. Remember, New York failed to win on the road even once in 2009. This is a team that is not intimidated, even by a frothy atmosphere such as the one at Buck Shaw on Saturday night. Backe called his team “composed,” especially in the second half.
“It was probably one of our best wins away,” Backe said.
2) Team Ream
Carlos Mendes was an absolute rock centrally along the back four – perhaps his best performance of the year - but also impressive was the play of rookie Tim Ream. Making his playoff debut, Ream was dominant in the air as the back line stayed very compact and frustrated San Jose all night long.
“It’s what we’ve been working on a lot the last 10 games, really shutting down teams. Not giving them an inch either,” Ream said. “They had a few chances, obviously. You’re not going to be perfect throughout 90 minutes, but we did our job, we have that goal, got the win and that’s what’s important.”
In a way, the game was a statement for Ream, who is on the short list for Rookie of the Year.
3) Where's Wondo?
Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski had a very quiet night with a few good chances but failed to find the back of the net. As Wondo goes, so go the San Jose Earthquakes. Their offense just seemed a step out of sync all night long.
“We had our chances to score, but it felt like one of those games where you’re going to get one,” San Jose head coach Frank Yallop said. “A couple fell to Wondo in the second half where he is usually going to bury that, but he didn’t.”
4) Great Joel
For the past two months, the Red Bulls offense has been buoyed by Dane Richards, who has scored five goals since mid-August. Now, Estonian international Joel Lindpere is picking up the slack, having scored two goals in as many games. Lindpere was limited in practice last week with a groin injury he first noticed in training after the last regular season game, a 2-0 win over New England.
“I hope for the best, but most likely, I feel my body so I know there is something wrong,” Lindpere said. “My doctor helped me with some stuff [before the game], so I didn’t feel the pain during the first half. But I started to feel it again in the second half.”
If Tony Tchani returns from his hamstring injury, the Red Bulls might be wise to rest Lindpere a week ahead of the Eastern Conference finals.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012
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