In a game where the New York Red Bulls needed a special performance, their two biggest names failed to carry their team in a 2-1 home loss to the Montreal Impact. Now the Red Bulls are again out of the playoffs and, for a second straight year lacked the star-quality to see things through.
Throughout the Eastern Conference Semifinals neither Bradley Wright-Phillips nor midfielder Sacha Kljestan consistently showed the form that made them both finalists for the league’s MVP award, the Impact doing a tremendous job in negating the Red Bulls vital cogs. Wright-Phillips, who did score for the Red Bulls in Sunday’s loss, was largely frustrated. As for Kljestan, whose 20 assists were best in MLS, he often found himself bottled up well by Montreal’s deep-lying midfielders.
Instead it was goals from Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti and then a Didier Drogba assist that paced Montreal. Both players, Designated Players for the Canadian side, showed that difference makers shine come playoff time.
And for New York, they once again didn’t have enough of those special players in what was another early exit from the playoffs. A squad built on the team concept again broken down in the playoffs by individual efforts from two of the league’s biggest stars.
“No, we won’t reexamine that at all. In fact, both games were on our terms, and if we’re sharp around the goal and finish chances in both games, this series honestly could have been handled fairly easily, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t. We just weren’t able to capitalize on situations,” head coach Jesse Marsch said.
“No. I mean, listen, this is who we are. This is what this club is now. I don’t think there’s — it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than anybody. It’s not like I’m — right now everything that’s been built in this club in the last two years I think has laid a foundation for great success moving forward. You know, the ultimate reward is MLS Cup, and we haven’t — for whatever reason, this club has struggled to get over that hump, and that part is disappointing.”
Wright-Phillips did score in the 78th minute to level the game at 1-1 but by that juncture the Red Bulls exit from the postseason was already assured.
Kljestan missed a penalty kick in the first half that would have leveled the game on aggregate and tipped momentum in favor of the home side. It was a frustrating playoff series for the United States international who left the game for 10 minutes with a bloody nose, forcing his team to play a man down.
Now the Red Bulls, who had 64.5 percent possession in the match, are left to wonder where things went wrong. Simply put in the playoffs where stars can make the difference and break down an opponent, the two biggest ones on the Red Bulls failed to shine.
“We probably dominated in every category except for goals in this series. To come away with one goal in two games is not enough for us. We are typically a very high scoring team,” Kljestan said after the match. “Chances were there, possession was there, being dangerous was there…just the goals weren’t there.”