New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy: 2-1 Loss Ends Bulls' Quest for 2011 MLS Cup
A year later, on Thursday night to be exact, their conqueror were the Los Angeles Galaxy. Remaining undefeated at home, the Galaxy won the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals 2-1 and 3-1 aggregate at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
After losing 1-0 to the Galaxy at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, the Red Bulls needed to win overall by one goal in order to keep their MLS Cup hopes alive. While Sunday's match was hard-fought and ugly, Thursday's night started off cohesively fast-paced.
The Red Bulls faced elimination without suspended defender Rafa Marquez, who earned a red card following Sunday's loss for hitting Landon Donovan and provoking a fight afterwards.
Sensing elimination, Luke Rodgers brought his fiery personality and passion and immediately demonstrated that the Red Bulls were here to win.
Four minutes into the match, Rodgers accepted a pass from Thierry Henry before he successfully beat LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders to give his teammates a 1-0 lead. As a result, the Red Bulls had a 1-1 aggregate draw with the Galaxy.
For the first 15 minutes of the match, the Galaxy weren't able to find their flow. Fortunately for them, the Red Bulls lost midfielder Teemu Tainio in the 16th minute with a hamstring injury. With Stephane Auvray subbing for Tainio, the Galaxy found their rhythm and started to attack the net.
Galaxy forward Robbie Keane attacked the net a couple of times but Red Bulls' GK Frank Rost made a pair of tremendous saves, preventing the Galaxy from leveling the match.
During this time, there was a scary moment for Los Angeles' David Beckham when it appeared his back gave out on him after he challenged Red Bulls' Dane Richards for an air ball.
Playing in what would have possibly been his final match as a member of the Galaxy, Beckham returned shortly thereafter. In the 42nd minute, he made his presence felt when he made a corner kick that Mike Magee drilled home to level the match 1-1, while giving his teammates a 2-1 aggregate advantage.
With the first half ending with a 1-1 draw, the Red Bulls needed the final 45 minutes to produce another goal while trying to shut down Los Angeles.
Picking up from the first half—where he scored a goal and collected a yellow card—Luke Rodgers almost gave the Red Bulls a 2-1 advantage. Accepting a pass from Dax McCarty, Rodgers beat Omar Gonzalez and misfired his opportunity away as the ball sailed outside of the net.
Despite the valiant effort from the Red Bulls, the Galaxy were simply the more experienced and cohesive club.
The Red Bulls suffered a setback when Thierry Henry was given a yellow card for kicking Omar Gonzalez from behind in the 61st minute. Then in the 73rd minute, the Galaxy were awarded a penalty kick when Roy Miller fouled David Beckham from behind inside the penalty area.
Taking the penalty kick for the Galaxy was none other than Landon Donovan.
By successfully converting that penalty kick, Donovan became the MLS All-time leading playoff scorer with his 18th playoff goal to give LA a 2-1 lead in the match and a comfortable 3-1 aggregate lead in the 74th minute.
As the minutes wound down, the Red Bulls' final minutes perfectly summarized their 2011 MLS season.
Although the Red Bulls looked good on paper, they were unable to put away matches they were capable of winning. For a team that won 10 matches while drawing 16 matches, their season was mediocre at best.
With the Red Bulls' season officially over, it'll be interesting to see what offseason changes the front office makes. For Red Bulls fans in the South Ward, they'll now have to wait until 2012 in order for their team to make another run for the MLS Cup.
Other 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs Results from Wednesday and Thursday
Despite winning 2-0 over Real Salt Lake, the Seattle Sounders are eliminated as they lost on a 3-2 aggregate score.
MLS Cup Eastern Conference Finals: Sporting KC versus Houston Dynamo
MLS Cup Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Galaxy versus Real Salt Lake.
Cesar Diaz is a mild-mannered reporter who writes for several online publications. If there's a soccer topic you believe that needs to be written about, please feel free to contact him. Easily accessible, you may contact him at CoveringSoccer@gmail.com and @CoveringSoccer.
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