HARRISON, N.J. – It was mostly trick and maybe a little bit of treat for the Red Bulls, who were felled 1-0 by the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal series on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena.
A 15th-minute goal by Mike Magee that came as New York defenders were distracted by an offside Robbie Keane – who intelligently didn’t participate in the play – proved the difference.
But for Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, his side showed well enough to give him confidence in a win in the return leg at the Home Depot Center on Thursday, Nov. 3 (11 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes; live chat on MLSsoccer.com). New York actually held the run of play, including a 17-9 advantage in shots and 6-1 on corner kicks.
“Not the result we wanted of course, losing at home, but a great performance – one of our better performances by far for a couple months,” Backe said after the match. “[We] totally controlled the game, dictated the game – [we had] four huge chances to tie the game.”
Two of those four chances fell to Dane Richards and Rafa Márquez, both whose golden opportunities were denied by LA ‘keeper Josh Saunders.
“We come out in the second half and there’s two or three great opportunities to bag a goal,” defender Stephen Keel said. “We kept it to just that one [goal]. Going into LA, it’s a series, it’s not just one game. That's the good thing.”
Still, the hosts' dominance doesn’t overshadow the fact that the Red Bulls still walked away from the match in a hole heading into the return leg in Los Angeles, where the Galaxy were undefeated this season.
“I felt like we got off to a slow start a little bit in the first half, but I thought we played well and fought well in the second half,” assessed right back Carlos Mendes. “Unfortunately, we didn’t put one of those chances away. But if we played the way we did today in LA, I think we’ll have a good chance to win.”
Backe echoed his player’s comments.
“For me, [the second leg] is totally wide open if we play can perform like this on Thursday,” he said. “We have won before in LA, we can do it again.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed on Twitter at @KristianRDyer