HARRISON, N.J. -- All that remained were crumbs and a memories.
Lest you think this is another story about the dilapidated state of RFK Stadium, this one has a far more delicious ending. Following his team's 1-0 win over D.C. United on Sunday to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals, New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was presented with two trays of cupcakes by his team.
Marsch turned 43-years-old on Sunday, perhaps the best gift being that his team is now two games away from hosting MLS Cup at Red Bull Arena.
Following the match, the cupcakes were wheeled out into the locker room to Marsch and presented to him. The squad sang happy birthday to their head coach, who in his first year with the team led the Red Bulls in becoming the first team to qualify for the playoffs, captured the Eastern Conference and then snaring the Supporters Shield for best record in the league.
Only one cupcake remained following the joyous celebration. Sure beats halftime oranges from mom.
A (playoff) win's a win
All season long, the New York Red Bulls have talked about building as a unit in every game. It got them the Eastern Conference regular-season title and the Supporters’ Shield. With Sunday’s 1-0 home win over D.C. United, perhaps their ugliest match of the year, the Red Bulls have built their way to within two games of hosting the MLS Cup. Their ultimate goal is just a playoff series away.
The Red Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with Sunday’s win, marking the franchise’s second straight trip to that round and another big step for a team that finished with the league’s best record.
United, which now has been knocked out of the playoffs by the Red Bulls in consecutive seasons, came into the match having lost the first leg of the playoffs 1-0 at RFK Stadium and played a very physical, but bland game. At times, it seemed like their best strategy was to hope for a mistake by the home side.
A Bradley Wright-Phillips goal in stoppage time iced a game that was always in control for the home team.
At times, United struggled to even put together a handful of passes as the Red Bulls pressed their backline and deep-lying midfielders into back passes and aimless long balls down the flank. After failing to register a shot on goal in their playoff loss last week, United’s offense struggled again.
It took D.C. United 146 minutes to register its first shot on goal in the playoff series, such was the stifling way the Red Bulls midfield squashed out any semblance of an attack.
It was Fabian Espindola in the 56th minute who finally got a shot on frame to end their lack of shots on goal, although it could be argued that it was more of a wayward cross than a challenge to
Luis Robles in goal.
With United playing so cynically, the Red Bulls had the bulk of possession but found scoring opportunities to be few and far between.
Sunday’s match was announced as a sellout, the third time this year that Red Bull Arena has been filled to the brim.