They sure do know how to break your heart, don’t they?
The Red Bulls didn't just lose 2-1 on the aggregate, they lost in the same heartbreaking fashion their fans have been subjected to for 17 years.
Kenny Cooper’s penalty kick in the 72nd minute put New York up 1-0. They would have the lead and a man advantage for the the final 20 minutes of the match following a costly red-card foul by United keeper Bill Hamid.
That is, until referee Mark Geiger reminded New Yorkers everywhere what it is like to be a Red Bulls fan.
Cooper’s stutter-step penalty kick was disallowed due to the encroachment of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, who found themselves well inside the box before the kick was taken. By the letter of the law, Geiger made the correct call.
With a combined $8.5 million salary and years of international experience between them, Cahill and Henry should have been aware of Geiger’s propensity to involve himself in a match.
The question is: Why did New York’s big-name talents not toe the line and trust Cooper to bury the 11th penalty of his career?
Cooper would subsequently have his shot saved on the second attempt. It was the first time he missed a penalty kick in his illustrious MLS career.
After Joe Willis’ save, it only took six minutes for New York defender Rafa Márquez to decide he had enough of this whole Red-Bulls thing. His inexplicable tackle on Chris Pontius drew his second yellow of the match, sending him off and leaving both sides with 10 men.
Even Pontius was observant of Márquez’s lack of dedication to New York.
“It was like he was trying to get thrown out of the game,” he told the media. “Like he didn't want to be there” (via soccerbyives.net).
When rookie sensation Nick DeLeon broke the scoreless draw in the 88th minute, Red Bulls fans everywhere felt that familiar sorrow in the pit of their stomach.
The end was near. We all sensed it.
In New York’s final attempt to find an equalizer, and with $5 million captain Thierry Henry by his side, Roy Miller sent his free kick straight into the stands.
Considering it was his first free-kick attempt all season, many are still wondering why it was Miller and not Henry who took the shot.
According to Henry (via soccerbyives.net), the free kick was best suited for a left-footed taker. Unfortunately for New York, that left foot belonged to Miller, and the so-called attempt to "fool the keeper" backfired.
When the final whistle blew, New York’s season ended the same as the 16 that preceded it. They are still in search of their first MLS Cup in franchise history.
This is in no way an attempt to take anything away from a resilient DC side who scraped and crawled their way to victory. They continue to prove their doubters wrong (myself included) and are in serious contention for their fifth MLS Cup.
After the match, an inconsolable Kenny Cooper carried the weight of disappointed Red Bulls fans everywhere—showing Rafa Marquez what it means to care about your team and their faithful supporters.
Cooper’s return to New York next season is uncertain, but if this was his last match in a Red Bulls kit, his missed penalty should not be the last memory the fanbase has of the selfless striker.
Kenny Cooper deserves better than that.
In the end, Red Bulls fans should not be surprised with how the match ended because, as the saying goes in New York, “that’s so metro.”
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