Tim Cahill 2

Houston-New York Man of the Match: Red Bulls’ forward Tim Cahill


HOUSTON – It may not feel this way for New York, not after the way things finished Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium, where the visitors squandered a 2-0 halftime lead in a series that was already there for the taking, but the Red Bulls remain in pretty good shape in this playoff series.

Granted, not as good as if they had won Sunday in the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal playoff opener. And not as good as if the team’s top defender, commanding center back Jamison Olave, wasn’t suspended for this week’s second leg back at Red Bull Arena. But, again, a 2-2 draw Sunday isn’t bad.

And they take this result back to Harrison, New Jersey, thanks in large part to Tim Cahill.

The Aussie international scored early and then played an important part in New York’s second goal, as Mike Petke’s team put Houston on notice quickly.

Cahill was a bother for the Houston back line immediately Sunday, getting into and winning his share of aerial challenges, a Cahill specialty, of course. In the 22nd minute, he drifted wisely between Houston center back Eric Brunner and outside back Corey Ashe until the moment of truth, when he found the right spot about six yards out to put his team ahead with a signature header goal. That was his ninth headed goal this year, more than most teams total header goals in 2013.

Cahill also sprang Eric Alexander on the break to help out on New York’s second goal.

Thierry Henry could surely have been Man of the Match on this one, as well. He was in on both New York goals, even if he didn’t show up on the score sheet on the Red Bulls’ second. On that one, it was Henry’s good work in possession near his own penalty area that launched that telling, 32nd minute counter strike, the one that ended with his team in a 2-0 lead.

Henry’s great footwork along the left and pinpoint centering pass put the ball on Cahill’s head for the visitor’s first goal Sunday.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)