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Red Bulls down Dynamo in stunning upset


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The New York Red Bulls pulled off one of the most stunning upsets in MLS playoff history on Sunday, knocking off the two-time defending champion Houston Dynamo, 3-0, in the decisive second-leg of their Western Conference playoff series.

Dane Richards scored the opening goal of the match, drew a penalty to set up the second goal, then finished Houston off with a 65-yard run before setting up John Wolyniec for the third goal as the Red Bulls booked a spot in the Western Conference final against Real Salt Lake.

While Richards was terrorrizing the Houston defense, Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero was enjoying the best game of his young career. Cepero made six clutch saves, most of the highlight-reel variety, as he and a organized and gutsy Red Bulls defense kept the Dynamo off the scoreboard in a decisive home game.

The victory means the Red Bulls will face Real Salt Lake on Saturday for a place in the 2008 MLS Cup final.

"We were physical, scored on chances that we created, we defended with our lives, we were a team,  a unit," said Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel, who converted a penalty kick for the Red Bulls second goal.

"If you play like that you always have a chance to beat anyone."

The Red Bulls looked like they might get overwhelmed early on as Houston applied good attacking pressure and Cepero struggled with some early jitters, but Cepero eventually found his feet and began making some key saves, including an early stop on a close-range shot from DeRosario.

"There were some times when I kind of laughed to myself when Danny made some of those saves because those are the ones that keep us in the games, especially big games," Red Bulls defender Andrew Boyens said of Cepero. "(Cepero) was quality tonight. Hopefully he can keep on doing that for us."

While Cepero kept Houston off the board, Richards was busy abusing Dynamo captain Wade Barrett on the flank. He ran onto a long pass from Sinisa Ubiparipovic, raced past Barrett and slammed home a 12-yard blast to make the score 1-0.

Richards torched Barrett again just 11 minutes later, getting in behind Barrett before sending a cross off the hand of Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark. Angel converted the penalty kick to make the score 2-0.

Houston adjusted in the second half by replacing Barrett with the speedy Corey Ashe, but Ashe was also toasted, as Richards capped a mazy 65-yard run with a perfect pass to John Wolyniec, who tapped home from close range for his first career playoff goal and first goal of the 2008 season.

“Every game I try to perform as best as I can but today was exceptional I guess,” Richards said. “And it’s a historic game so I’m happy I could do it today, and hopefully I can do it next week also.”

The victory was a satisfying one for Osorio, who watched his lineup decisions pay off in the playoffs after shaking up his squad following an embarrrassing 5-2 regular-season ending loss to Chicago. After that loss he inserted Luke Sassano and Sinisa Ubiparipovic into the starting lineup along with John Wolyniec and that trio helped form the physical, tireless and determined squad that knocked off the Dynamo.

"I was one hundred percent sure that this team would give me its best," Osorio said of the starting lineup he used to beat Houston. "I felt we could play a certain way that would make it difficult for opponents to play against us and you saw that with Houston."

Now the Red Bulls turn their attentions to Real Salt Lake, knowing that one more win will put them into the MLS Cup final. Given the way the team has looked in the post-season, and with the confidence they are sure to draw from upsetting Houston, the Red Bulls have suddenly gone from a team that barely made the playoffs to a team that looks capable of reaching the final.

"I hear a lot of people say that we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs and I think that’s nonsense," Angel said. "We’re here and now people are starting to talk about us.

"It’s not over," Angel said. "We know that we’re on the doorstep of the big party of the year. We would like to get it right, but we have a very difficult challenge ahead.


  1. Brokenbil, on what are you basing your assertions? Maybe you are correct in saying Dynamo fans brushed off the PPC result. (Although you really ought to do a little research before you type. The result was 6-1.) Do you know any fans of American soccer who didn’t brush off the PPC? Let’s be honest–of all the competitions in which the Dynamo participated this year it probably ranks 2nd from bottom in importance to the team, barely beating the Texas Pro Soccer Festival, a true preseason tournament. I personally was a bit shocked by the result but not overly concerned.

    I’m not sure where you get the impression that the Dynamo “scoffed at the folly” of SuperLiga. I think the team and all the fans were proud of their performance in the tournament, and hoped it would signal the beginning of better play in the league (it did). How does our 2nd place finish in that tournament make us overrated?

    Yes, we finished 2nd to Columbus. How does that make us overrated?

    How does failing to make it to their 3rd successive final qualify as overrated? What team are you a fan of that you have such a chip on your shoulder?

    NE has had multiple failures in the MLS Cup, as well as a poor performance in CCL and the final third of the season and the playoffs. People still speak of them as a good team and I agree. I don’t consider them overrated. What’s your problem with people saying Houston is a good team?

  2. brent, I was at the game and neither I nor it seemed anyone else in the stadium saw the handball. From my admittedly poor position I genuinely thought he had blocked the ball with his foot and I and certainly our entire side of the stadium were absolutely bewildered that a penalty was called. When I got home I watched telefutura’s broadcast which I had recorded. You could sort of see that the ball might have hit his arm, but the angle was so bad you couldn’t be certain and you couldn’t see what part of Rico it hit before it hit his arm.

    My Spanish isn’t very good, but it sounded like the announcers were affirming that the ball had hit his arm but questioning the issue of intent.

    Later I read somewhere, not sure where–maybe Fallas’ blog or maybe the Chronicle–that it had hit his head first.

    That said, we didn’t just lose because of the penalty call, whether it was correct or not.

    But yes, I agree. Telefutura’s announcers are pretty good from what I can tell with my limited Spanish, but the visual quality of their broadcasts is awful. Our local station does better.

  3. Houston fans, you talk the talk but your team can’t walk the walk. First, you brush off the 6-0 drubbing by Gamba Osaka in the PPC as a meaningless pre-season game. Then you dismiss the importance of the USOC after the Dynamo loses to Charleston Battery, a USL team. Then you scoff at the folly of Superliga when the Dynamo lose to New England. The Dynamo finishes second in MLS, loses the Supporters Shield to Columbus. Finally, the Dynamo are “upset” by the Red Bulls, 3-0 at home in front of a huge crowd, and will not return to a third successive MLS Cup final.

    Funny, that defines overrated to me.

  4. would have liked to have seen some halfway decent replays yesterday. richards looked offside on the first goal? and i never could tell whether rico handled the ball on the penalty. i know….sour grapes….whatever

  5. good luck in the CL silent e…. houston has dealt with alot this year and they were still a top force in nearly all of their competitions…

  6. Oh, and brokenbill:

    Houston is still in the Champions League. A win at home on Nov 26th sees us through to the quarterfinals. A challenge, sure, but assuredly not an impossible task.

  7. brokenbill, your comment is absolutely idiotic. Overrated? You need merely see the level of shocked disappointment from Dynamo fans and surprised elation from Red Bull fans to know that in the grand scheme of things, Houston is the better team and favored to win. Schedule congestion not a problem for DC? Sure they won a tournament, but they also played like crap in the other 2, not to mention the league. Not a problem for NE? Sure they won SuperLiga (on PKs to Houston) but they crapped out in 2nd half of the league season, lost by the same goal diffential and the same round of playoffs as Houston, crapped out as well in the CL and barely managed to squeak past CP Baltimore at home on PKs before losing to DC in the USOC. Also, I have yet to hear Houston fans using fixture congestion as an excuse. Most of us in the know will say Cepero was great, Houston too slow to deal with Richards, and Houston’s passing was often suspect. Simple as that. (PS to Red Bull fans I’m not slagging on your team. Red Bull clearly played the better game yesterday; Houston looked out of sorts almost the whole game. I kept telling people to watch out for Red Bull because they are a team that gives Houston a hard time, personally I was hoping DC would be our first round oppponant).

    Mark, I think omitting the DPs *does* skew the numbers. RBNY has made a choice to have JPA on the field; Houston has made the choice not to have a DP. If you want to evaluate the salaries of the players on the field that day you absolutely have to include JPA or it’s not a real comparison. It’s an interesting study–is spending on a DP worth it, and what effect does it have on the rest of your team, but if you drop the highest paid players from your analysis what are you really measuring? BTW, Houston had at least 3 players on the field earning minimal salaries–Ashe makes 33K, as do Holden and Boswell. Kamara only makes 58K. Perhaps another interesting study would be to see how much money the players who didn’t make the field for each team made 🙂

    DCU 4EVER, NE won some silver as well: SuperLiga. And Houston were runners up. Oh well, I can understand if you’d want to forget that tournament 🙂

  8. brokenbil- lol are you possibly comparing the USOC and Superliga to the CLcup???

    kind of a farce comparison…

    DC didnt even make the playoffs, but hats off to them on such an amazing USOC win, clearly they are better….

    NE were 1-5-4 in their last 10 regular season games not to mention lose in the opening series of playoffs… but again, clearly a better squad b/c they won superliga…

    Hou made the finals of superliga, they were 2nd in the league, and probably one of the most consistant teams in the league… its hard to call them overrated, and yet you do b/c of…???

  9. Back-to-back MLS Cups aside, Houston is totally overrated. MLS has loved promoting their two-time defending champions this year only to see them lose in four straight tournaments. Schedule congestion didn’t seem to be a problem for DC (USOC champs) or New England (Superliga champs) so why is it an excuse for Houston? Yes, Houston is a good team, but not a great team. They haven’t lived up to their hype.

  10. inkedAG – i would expect to see them in the game against RSL…

    this season is pretty much the same that chicago had last season…. barely into the playoffs, upset of top team and a coaching blunder (by the name of wanchope) in the confrence finals….

    i wouldnt be shocked if JCO puts the big signings in for the RSL game

  11. Nick- Richards has been less then consistant all season…. he’s had games that would get looks from abroad, and then there are games where he’s been non-existant…. i think Richards could do well abroad bar he continues his solid for for an entire season…

    Cepero has a handful of games under his belt… as you said IF he continues his form he could amount to alot, but let slow that thought process down a bit… lets not forget that we have had the likes of Reis in our league without a hint of interest… then you have players like Pickens who went abroad and failed (still failing) and on his way home to the MLS (most likely LA)…. tough road to go down

  12. In the Matchday commentary, Ives, you had said that JCO has gotten more criticism than he deserves. I would have to disagree. NYRB got into the playoffs via mathematics, not by winning. The big signings of Cichero, Rojas and Piertavallo were benched. Things could have and should have been done better during the season. And if by some chance they win against Real Salt Lake and get into the final, his missteps during the season are still pretty evident.

  13. Cerpo and Richards to Europe? I think if Cerpo keeps up this form, he’ll join in the ranks of Guzan and co. as the next great young American keeper.

  14. Hey Ives,

    Great game on Sunday. As much as I enjoyed the win, I could not help but notice a couple of issues with the RB. First, as good as Cepero was, he stills needs to improve his game inside the box. There were a couple of Houston corners where came out for the ball but fell short. Also, there were times when his two center backs were expecting him to come out of his goal to get a ball but he stopped halfway.

    Talking about center backs, I don’t know if it is by design but they seem to be playing on the same line and not covering each other backs. On one play Boyens came out to clear a ball with his head but the Houston player beat him to it and pushed the ball forward. Jimenez came out at the same time and all of a sudden there was no one in the middle.

    In another play, Jimenez came out to challenge but was late, and Boyens was caught going the wrong way and fell, luckily Cepero saved Brian Ching’s shot.

    Hope JCO works a little more on those two.


  15. You have to love these dumb f*cks like Jacob who think Houston got “humiliated”. That acne faced troll Dane Richards is humiliated everytime he goes on national TV. Seriously, Pro Activ anyone? Next time you are in 4 tournaments this year, let us know. And when RSL beats you or you lose to Columbus in the final, no one will remember that one time NY beat Houston. Good thing you guys didnt win too many games this season otherwise we would have to watch that suckfest turf field with 5k people in the stands again.

  16. Congrats to RBNY. Cepero was pure class in a very big match where no one would have written him off had he not come up big. He stepped up in a big way for a raw rookie.

    But while fans applaud Woly’s finishing skill, it needs to be brought up that Cepero’s goal-scoring drought continues. What gives?

  17. Javier – consider the SS as the true champion of the league and the MLS cup as an overhyped cup if it makes you feel better…

    personally i agree to an extent… id rather keep the playoffs but see the league as far as the playoffs are concerned held as a single table….

  18. I’m going to piss some people off here, but what the hell.

    If having #1 and #2 teams in the west Houston and ChivasUSA go down to the #5 team in the east and #3 team in the west isn’t proof that the playoffs need to go and the league needs to go to either a single table or championship game between the #1 team in the east and #1 team in the west I don’t know what is. What does this say about the work that was put in for the last 32 games. If anything the teams that should be in any kind of championship game right now should be Houston and Columbus as the number #1 teams in their divisions.

    Yes Columbus won their game against K.C.#4 in the east, but Chicago #2 against N.E.#3 in the east? These are games that should never have occurred.

    There has been some soccer played by the teams in the playoffs, but they need to play like that all season to be #1 team in either the west or east. That should at least make the rest of season meaningful and not leave it to the teams that are peaking come playoff time.

    It’s time MLS dumped the playoffs.

  19. And more good news…we’re done with gridiron lines for the year!!! Columbus, RSL and HDC will all look like real foooooootball fields!

    Posted by: thomas | November 10, 2008 at 12:22 AM

    er, no duh, they are all soccer specific stadiums, lol.


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