Here we stand, a day after one of the exciting, heart-stopping and unforgettable playoff games in MLS history and there are plenty of people, both Red Bulls fans and neutrals, who are still scratching their heads at the improbability of the Red Bulls earning a place in the MLS Cup final.
Notice that word, earning. Whether you’re one of those "they didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs people" or not, you can’t really argue with the fact that the Red Bulls endured and overcame an incredible amount of adversity to reach this point.
I will offer a more thorough breakdown of the match, as well as some behind-the-scenes notes on Monday (two cross-country flights in 30 hours have wiped me out), but for now I wanted to discuss the role that luck played in last night’s Red Bulls victory:
I had touch on one sentiment I’m hearing a lot of, that the Red Bulls were lucky to win last night. Nobody on the Red Bulls denies that, and several people ranging from Juan Carlos Osorio to Dave Van Den Bergh said as much. Apparently some people forget that luck is part of the game and the Red Bulls worked hard enough and played well enough to take advantage of it. While Real Salt Lake had tons of close chances, and hit the post three times, the Red Bulls fought and clawed and played better than some critics are acknowledging this Sunday.
What some observers are failing to realize as well is the fact that the Red Bulls have had more than their fair share of bad luck in the playoffs through the years. From the last-minute penalty call that helped D.C. United beat the MetroStars in that first series in 1996, to the offside calls (one made, one not made) that cost the MetroStars in the 2000 Eastern Conference final, to the Bob Bradley years, when New England and D.C. United benefited from the MetroStars bad luck in the form of shaky calls (along with some poor play), or the late goals that crushed the club’s playoff hopes in 2005 and 2006.
If anything, the Red Bulls have been due for some playoff luck for some time, and this year it has come in droves, both against Houston and last night against Real Salt Lake. On some level it is funny to hear Real Salt Lake fans bemoan their bad luck when this year has marked just their first foray into the MLS playoffs. Enduring playoff heartbreak is a rite of passage and last night’s match will go down in the history books for both RSL and Red Bulls fans. When Real Salt Lake’s time comes, it will be made that much sweeter by the agony endured last night at Rio Tinto Stadium. I mean really, who will forget that game and it’s heart attack-inducing suspense, and for RSL, its heart-breaking finish?
So before you go complaining about the Red Bulls good luck you might want to think about the fact that it took 12 years of misery, a dozen years of bad bounces, blown calls, blown leads and terrible luck to get to this mother lode of good luck the Red Bulls have been graced with. Luckily for the Red Bulls and their fans, the team has come together and played well enough to make sure that this good luck didn’t go to waste.