The New York Red Bulls last Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena not only dropped a 2-0 decision to the Chicago Fire, which clinched a playoff berth, but also dropped out of a second-place tie with the Fire in the Eastern Conference and landed in fourth place behind DC United, which defeated Toronto, 1-0, Saturday. There could be serious play-off consequences if the Red Bulls (15-9-8, 53 pts.) finish out of the top three in the East, which could very well be the case with only two games to play, one of which is against Conference leader and playoff-bound Sporting Kansas City (17-7-8, 59 pts.) at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, Oct. 20.
In the new playoff format, the first round will see the fifth and fourth place teams play a single elimination game to advance to the Conference semifinals; as it stands now, the fourth-place Red Bulls will play fifth-place Houston Dynamo in Red Bull Arena, but it won’t be anywhere near an easy contest for New York against a surging, playoff-experienced Houston team. New York will have another difficult game at Philadelphia in its last regular season contest on Saturday, Oct. 27, which means there is a very distinct possibility of a fourth-place finish or lower.
DC United (16-10-6, 54 pts.), a much improved team this year as shown by its winning road record, hosts Columbus Crew then travels to Chicago Fire (17-10-5, 56 pts.) for its last games. Houston Dynamo (13-8-11, 50 pts.) meanwhile hosts Philadelphia Union and winds up its season at the Colorado Rapids. The results of these games in the next two weeks would determine the third, fourth and fifth playoff positions; the Red Bulls will do well to avoid that single elimination game.
The Red Bulls became undone last Saturday because of a lackluster performance. After a scoreless first half in which both teams missed scoring opportunities, Chicago made good on one in the 65th minute when Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald latched on to a through pass from Chris Wolfe and beat Red Bulls goal keeper Luis Robles for the 1-0 lead; the Dutchman increased the lead in the 78th minute off a pass from Daniel Paladini.
In other MLS games last weekend, Kansas City and Columbus played to a 1-1 tie, and so did Houston and Montreal, which was officially eliminated from the playoffs. San Jose Earthquake beat Colorado, 4-0; Philadelphia topped New England Revolution, 1-0; and Real Salt Lake knocked off the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1.
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup continues today, Friday, Oct. 12 and Tuesday, Oct. 16 with the last games in the semi-final round. On Friday in Group A, Guatemala hosts Jamaica and Antigua/Barbuda hosts the USA; in Group B, El Salvador hosts Costa Rica and Guyana hosts Mexico. In Group C, Canada entertains Cuba while Honduras travels to Panama.
On Tuesday in Group A, the USA hosts Guatemala and Jamaica entertains Antigua/Barbuda. In Group B, Mexico plays host to El Salvador, while Guyana travels to Costa Rica; and in Group C, Canada goes to Honduras while Cuba hosts Panama. The top two teams in each group will form a final group of six, from which three will win automatic berth to the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher plays off against a South American opponent.
The field for the second round of qualifying for the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Championship is nearing completion. Haiti and Puerto Rico have qualified from Group One, Martinique and Suriname from Group Three are assured and on Sunday, Sept. 30, the Dominican Republic clinched a berth after finishing atop Group Four, with second place and host Barbados in second and still in with a chance to move to the second round as one of two best second-place teams.
Group Two in St. Lucia gets under way in mid-October and includes Curacao, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the hosts. Group Five with hosts St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Trinidad and Tobago and French Guyana will play from Oct. 10-14, 2012. Winners of Groups Two and Five, along with the two best second-place finishers and Grenada, Cuba and Guadeloupe will complete a second-round field of 12 teams to play in late October.
Six from the 12 second-round teams, along with defending champion Jamaica and hosts Antigua and Barbuda will advance to the Final Eight Championship in mid-December. The top four teams will qualify for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup to be played in the USA in June.