Thomas B. Shea

MatchDay: Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo (tonight, 8:00 PM, MSG, Univision Deportes)


Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo
Eastern Conference Semifinals -- Game 2
(aggregate score 2-2)
Wednesday, November 6
8:00 PM Eastern
Red Bull Arena - Tickets Available
Watch on MSG (7:30 PM pregame show)
Watch on Univision Deportes
Listen on 1050 AM (ESPN Deportes)



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The New York Red Bulls can advance to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2008 with a win on Wednesday night when they host the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena in the decisive second leg of the teams' Eastern Conference Semifinals series. With the score tied 2-2 after the first leg, whoever wins Wednesday's game will advance. A tie will result in 30 minutes of extra time (not sudden death), and if the teams are still tied, penalty kicks will decide the series.
On Sunday, New York opened the series by earning a 2-2 tie at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium. Although the Red Bulls are the only team in the Dynamo's eight-year history to avoid defeat in a playoff game in Houston (the Dynamo are 9-1-1 at home in playoff games, but New York is 1-0-1 in Houston), the result was bittersweet because the Red Bulls had a 2-0 lead at halftime. Tim Cahill and Eric Alexander provided the goals in the first half, with Thierry Henry and Dax McCarty among the key men in the buildup to both. In the second half, however, an early goal by Houston's Ricardo Clark (on a deflection) and a 65th-minute red card to Jamison Olave set the stage for Dynamo forward Omar Cummings to tie the game on a stoppage-time rebound.
The Red Bulls are unbeaten in their last nine games (6-0-3) overall, going back to an August loss to Chivas USA, and their last 10 competitive home games (8-0-2) since a 2-1 loss to Vancouver back on June 1. Houston has never won at Red Bull Arena and has not scored there since 2011, a span of 310 minutes that includes three consecutive Red Bulls shutouts. New York led Major League Soccer in home scoring this season, averaging two goals per home game.
New York must play the game without Olave, thanks to his red card on Sunday, but is otherwise near full strength. Midfielder Tim Cahill has eight goals and three assists in his last 12 games, including notching either a goal or an assist in seven of the last eight contests. Thierry Henry has three goals and three assists in the last seven games. Midfielder Eric Alexander, who has played in all 35 MLS games this year, has scored in back-to-back contests.

Houston is the two-time defending Eastern Conference champion and has appeared in four of the last seven MLS Cup finals, winning in 2006 and 2007 before losing to the LA Galaxy in both 2011 and 2012. The Dynamo are led by forward Will Bruin (8 goals, 7 assists, 2 playoff goals), midfielder Brad Davis (4 goals, 9 assists), and midfielder Boniek Garcia (3 goals, 6 assists, 1 playoff goal). Goalkeeper Tally Hall has a 1.22 career goals-against-average. Houston is playing without starting center back Jermaine Taylor, who underwent surgery for a broken toe shorty before the end of the regular season.
Five players in the series received yellow cards on Sunday and, if they receive another yellow card on Wednesday, would be suspended for the first game of the conference final if their team advances: Brandon Barklage, David Carney, Thierry Henry, and Jonny Steele (New York) and Boniek Garcia (Houston).
New York leads the all-time series 9-3-9, including a 6-0-4 mark at home and a 3-0-1 record in 2013. The Red Bulls are 0-2 in modern MLS history when playing the second leg of a playoff series at home, falling to San Jose in 2010 and D.C. United last year.


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