HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls are bound for the postseason after a 1-0 win over the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night.
More striking for this club, which finished in last place in the league last year, they are now on top of the Eastern Conference and making a play for the Supporters Shield.
Here are four points to take away from Saturday’s night win:
1. Winning Ugly — The Red Bulls dominated ten days ago in an impressive 2-0 road win over league-leading Los Angeles. Things weren’t so pretty this past weekend.
The Wizards statistically dominated the match in nearly every aspect, from possession to chances on goal. “To me, just a mess for 90 minutes,” coach Hans Backe said. “We looked, as a team, like [when] we started back in April.”
Perhaps, as the tougher playoff games get closer, it is a good sign that against the odds and the run of play, New York managed not just a result but a win.
2. Bouna Time — Saturday night marked the best performance by New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul since April when he was world-class in stopping FC Dallas for a home win. Against Kansas City, Coundoul was solid in his shot-stopping and came off his line superbly well.
“Without Bouna today, we wouldn’t be first in the Eastern Conference,” said forward Thierry Henry.
Coundoul made an outstanding second half save on substitute Jack Jewsbury, going horizontal to touch over a blast that seemed destined to crack the corner of the goal.
3. Great Dane — The moniker is more than cliché lately, but Dane Richards has indeed been great. The Red Bulls speedy right midfielder is no longer just a burst of pace down the flanks but is now a polished player.
His 6th-minute goal was his fourth goal of the season, all tallied in the span of his last five games. It came from a heads-up play—stripping KC’s Jimmy Conrad—and a savvy finish with his left foot.
“It was all about getting the first one and once I got the first one, it gave me confidence,” Richards said. “Getting the opportunity to put them away.”
4. First place, yes, first — Even with the marquee mid-summer signings, the Red Bulls are still a surprise team in MLS for many observers.
“Last year we were getting ready to go home, but this year we are getting ready to go to the playoffs,” Richards said. “I’m real happy right now and just happy for my teammates. So, we’re looking forward to it.”
Much of the credit goes to Backe who has masterfully pieced together this team and continues to give them confidence.
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.