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THREE TIMES A WINNER

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After being outplayed badly by the Columbus Crew back on Sunday, Oct. 19, in the penultimate game of the regular season, at Red Bull Arena, there were concerns that the New York Red Bulls’ poor play would lead to an early exit from the playoffs. But the team put together a string of three wins to put itself in a good position to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, with hopes of its first MLS Cup appearance.

The third of those crucial three wins came in a 2-0 defeat of Eastern Conference leader DC United at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, Nov. 2 in the first leg of the home-and-away Conference semi-final playoff series; it was the result of remarkably improved play by the Red Bulls as Captain Thierry Henry led the good play with two assists to help MLS top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips (61st min.) and Peguy Luyindula (74th) for the victory. In this aggregate goals series, DC United has to win by two goals at home on Saturday, Nov. 8, to stop the Red Bulls from advancing to the Conference finals.

Henry’s masterful play started when Lloyd Sam connected with Henry in the goal area, Henry back-heeled to Luyindula, who just let the ball pass through to Wright-Phillips, who beat DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid at the near left post for the 1-0 lead. To secure the win, as DC United searched desperately for the equalizer, Henry sent a long pass from deep in his half; about 30 yards, for the unmarked Luyindula to just control on is shoelaces and finished between the legs of the on-rushing Hamid.

DC United had no answer for the Red Bulls last Sunday; the home team had beaten United, 1-0, in the teams’ last encounter at Red Bull Arena. Wright-Phillips scored his league-leading 30th goal of the season after tying Roy Lassiter’s 27 regular season goals record, set in 1996 and also tied by Chris Wondowlowski in 2012. Wright-Phillips could also surpass another Lassiter record, that of 33 goals for the entire 1996 season, including the playoffs. Guatemalan Carlos Ruiz scored 32 in 2002.

New York now must continue its good play to advance in the postseason. The good play started with 2-0 defeats of 2013 MLS Cup champion, Sporting Kansas City, the defeat came in the last regular season game in Kansas City and the second at Red Bull Arena in the first round, single elimination game at Red Bull Arena; Wright-Phillips scored twice each time. The Red Bulls players are combining well with each other, Henry JUIS three assists in the two playoff games and this helped to inspire the team; Wright-Phillips continued his goal-scoring prowess in the post-season, and it all adds up to hopes of an MLS Cup appearance for the New York Red Bulls.

In the other Eastern Conference semi-final playoff series, the New England Revolution scored a 4-2 victory at Columbus Crew Stadium last Saturday afternoon; The Revs host the Crew on Sunday in the second leg and in a very good position with two-goal lead to advance to the Conference final.

In the Western Conference semi-finals, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake played to a goalless draw in Utah In the first leg, which makes life a bit easier for the Galaxy in hosting the second leg on Sunday. The Seattle Sounders rallied for a 2-2 tie at FC Dallas last Sunday and now has home field advantage in Saturday’s second leg.

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