Red Bulls foiled in quest to clinch Eastern title

NY can still win first East crown since 2000 at home Thursday

Columbus tied Toronto FC earlier on Saturday afternoon, the Red Bulls knew
that all they needed was a win against Philadelphia to lock down the Eastern
Conference title. However, instead of coming out with wings, the Red Bulls looked flat and
gave up two first-half goals en route to a 2-1 road loss to the Union.

the result, the Red Bulls now hold a tenuous one-point lead on first place in
the conference in the battle for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs
with just Thursday’s match remaining on their regular season schedule.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Red Bulls had no offensive flow and no rhythm at all to their attack in the
opening 45 minutes, failing to register a shot on goal during the first half. New
York’s offense had struggled coming into the match, having scored just once -
and that against the run of play - in their last two outings. 

Even with the return of Dane Richards on the
right wing following international duty, the Red Bulls were unable to exploit a
player who had scored four goals in his past five games heading into Saturday’s match at PPL Park.

were kind of playing in Philadelphia’s end too much. We weren’t dangerous at
all,” assistant coach Richie Williams told “Our passing was
short passing, it was all safe. We never put them under pressure much.”

4-4-1-1 formation employed by head coach Hans Backe with some effect in
September had little jolt against Philadelphia. Mehdi Ballouchy, who played the
free roaming role behind striker Juan Pablo Angel in the first half, failed to make an impact. When he dropped deep into the midfield to
retrieve the ball, Ballouchy would leave Angel alone up top and stranded
without a strike partner. And when he
stayed up top, the midfield seemingly lacked someone who had composure on the
ball in the face of strong, high pressure from the Union.

wasn’t until the halftime insertion of forward Salou Ibrahim that
the Red Bulls became a threat in attack. With Ballouchy dropping into the
midfield, Angel had a partner to play off of and the Belgian's presence took away some of the pressure. Williams credits the
4-4-2 alignment with a better, more dynamic flow to the game.

York began to register shots on goal and good scoring chances, including a
late-match chance on a corner kick as Juan Agudelo’s header was cleared off the

were able to play more direct in the second half,” Williams said. “I think he
[Ibrahim] played well. He held the ball well; he was a big physical presence. Even when
he didn’t have the ball he occupied their center backs.”

a win on Thursday night against New England, the Red Bulls would clinch their
first Eastern Conference title since 2000.

game is easy in this league but we play at home now,” Williams said. “We’re
confident we can go out there and win the Eastern Conference in this our last

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at and followed at