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New York Red Bulls Drop First Leg of Eastern Conference Semifinal

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


On 9:30 PM in Washington, DC on Thursday, it was settled; after a 4-2 victory over DC United, the Montréal Impact had booked passage to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Set to meet the East’s top team, the New York Red Bulls, who were unbeaten in 16 league matches and boast the league’s top goalscorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and top assister, Sacha Kljestan, the Red Bulls were the clear favorites heading into the match. Yet, it was Montréal who reigned supreme on the day, executing their game plan perfectly to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg.

The Red Bulls, skipping the wild card round and entering the playoffs at the conference semifinal stage, put out an unchanged lineup for the fourth time in a row — a stretch in which they won all of their matches. Early on, it was New York who dominated possession, but traded opportunities with Montréal, who were always quick on the counterattack.

Tensions were high as the match progressed, resulting in a bust-up between Hassoun Camara and Felipe, in which Camara claimed that Felipe hit him, while Felipe ended up on the ground. Both players were handed yellow cards by referee Robert Sibiga, putting them on early warning of suspension just 13 minutes into the match.

The two teams traded opportunities and corners to little avail, when a penalty claim came the Red Bulls’ way. Firstly, Kljestan was taken down on the edge of the penalty area, but the referee played advantage, resulting in Wright-Phillips finding the ball. The Englishman fell to the ground, perhaps clipped by Montréal goalkeeper Evan Bush or taken down by Laurent Ciman, but on both occasions, Sibiga called no foul.

Capping off the first half was an opportunity for the home team, when an Ignacio Piatti header bounced on the other side of the far post. The half ended 0-0, and though New York ruled possession stats, 60% to 40%, Montréal outnumbered them in shots, four to two.

New York took charge early in the second half, earning freekicks near the penalty area, one from which the opening goal was almost scored. Camara and Felipe were involved in another incident, in which Camara took down the midfielder. Felipe took the freekick, and his strike hit the crossbar.

Ten minutes later, the deadlock was finally broken, and it was Matteo Mancosu that got the home team on the board. Marco Donadel found the ball in midfield, and launched a long ball towards Mancosu, who was making a run into the penalty box. Mancosu, at an angle, volleyed his shot, finding the back of the net with ease.

The Red Bulls were quick to attempt a response, as Kljestan found his way into the penalty area, but was met by Montréal’s defense. It was much of the same as the clocked ticked, with the Impact going into a full defensive mode and Bush matching the excellence of Mancosu’s goal with his own saves. The last ten minutes saw Montréal attempt to increase their lead, but it was New York who provided the late drama.

One minute into stoppage time, substitute Omer Damari, standing in the center of the penalty area, found Wright-Phillips, who shot just wide of the goal, missing his golden chance to equal the game. Damari managed another important moment to close out the match, as he committed a studs-up foul on Callum Mallace, getting a red card in the process.

Following the match, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch, was still in high spirits, saying “It’s only halftime. We have to be better, but we’re fully confident heading back home.”

New York returns to Red Bull Arena on Sunday, November 6, when they host the Montréal Impact for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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