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Red Bulls find success in unfamiliar role, the Underdog

The New York Red Bulls booked their place in the Eastern conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs with a resounding 4-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in the knockout round.

New York, who entered the game as a 3-1 underdog to advance past the Fire according to, opened the scoring with a goal in the 7th minute and were well on their way.

Matt Lampson, who had been benched in the Fire’s last match of the season against Houston Dynamo, seemed unsure of himself.  Lampson was caught between coming off his line and staying back, as Bradley Wright-Phillips’ missed-touch turned into a deft one and he tapped the ball past the keeper to open the Red Bulls’ account.

From there, the Red Bulls were on their way as they took advantage of Chicago’s mistakes and general what seemed to be a lack of confidence.

The Red Bulls doubled the advantage when Sacha Kljestan timed a perfect run into the box in the 11th minute and took a perfect low cross from academy product Tyler Adams first time past Lampson and took that 2-0 advantage into half time.

Coming out of halftime, you knew the Fire would come out with intensity.

The Red Bulls survived the onslaught including an appeal for a penalty and red card on New York’s keeper Luis Robles in the 47th minute.  Off a corner kick, in a sight that has to be familiar to Red Bulls fans, Dax McCarty the former Red Bull man, timed a glancing header that Robles was able to save with a quick reaction.  A goal there would have brought the Fire within 1, and specifically a McCarty strike would have been an emotional lift.

As Robles corralled the ball, he appeared to scissor kick his legs and Fire supporters and players called for a penalty.  Although it is hard to figure intent, there appeared to be no reason for the kick out of his legs and the move went unpunished.

In the 70th minute, McCarty did impact the game for the Fire.  However, it was in a negative fashion.  He was dispossessed in the midfield by the combination  of Sean Davis and Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Royer took a return pass in  the box from Davis and calmly fired home to give the Red Bulls a commanding 3-0 lead.

Red Bull would add a fourth when revitalized super-sub Gonzalo Veron chipped a ball into the back of the net off another well-executed counter in the 87th minute.

The Red Bulls’ history has been filled with playoff disappointment.

However, this time, it is a different feel – the life of the underdog, this 6th seed.

They will face number 1 seed Toronto F.C. who has been hailed as championship favorites since March.  This is a position with which Red Bull are familiar; the prohibitive favorite.

When in that position, Red Bull has faltered.  Will Toronto cave to the pressure?

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