BY ADAM SERRANO
Joel Lindpere notched the only goal as the Red Bulls were victorious in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Red Bulls dominated throughout the match controlling a great deal of the possession despite being away from home. With the victory, the Red Bulls are an impressive 15-0-1 when scoring first in 2010. For Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, there is still plenty of work to do if the Red Bulls are to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
“I think we played really well,” the Red Bulls head coach said. “It’s a great, great win, but it’s only the first half. But I think we can play [as] composed as today, I think we’ll be hard to beat.”
The Red Bulls began the match in first gear, sending loads of pressure on the Earthquakes defense. Throughout the match, it appeared as though the Earthquakes defense was a step behind, a New York attack that dominated possession. San Jose held the stalemate going into the second half,due to the clutch play of goalkeeper Jon Busch, who made a number of key saves in the first half that kept the Red Bulls off the board.
The Earthquakes had particular trouble containing Lindpere, who pestered the Earthquakes defense throughout the match on the left hand side. His best effort of the first half came in the 44th minute when he fired a shot that was cleared off the line by Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez. Lindpere broke the deadlock in the 55th minute of play. Off a failed clearance, the Estonian winger scooped up the ball and fired a shot past Busch.
"As a team, we did what we wanted to, we shut them down on the defensive side and we created a ton of chances on the offensive side," said Ream. "We came into this game not looking for a tie, now we're going to go home to repair some things and try to get the victory on Thursday."
Throughout the match, the Earthquakes string together the final touch as MLS Golden Boot winner, Chris Wondolowski was rendered ineffective. Frequently double teamed by centerbacks Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes, Wondolowski struggled to get the service needed to score. Despite the pressure, Wondolowski's nearly picked up a penalty kick in the 65th minute, when he appeared to be tripped by Red Bulls goalkeepeer Bouna Coundoul. However, referee Paul Ward ruled that Wondolowski went down too easily and was booked the striker for simulation.
The Earthquakes received their golden opportunity to find the equalizer in the 83rd minute. As Wondolowski fired a header off that bounced off cross bar and fell to Eduardo. The burly Brazilian striker fired a shot that bounced of the post assuring the victory for New York. San Jose now needs to win by at least two goals at Red Bull Arena, where the Red Bulls have only conceded nine goals all season. With a win needed to keep his dream season alive, Wondolowski is motivated for the return leg.
“We just need to keep our game plan,” said Wondolowski. “I feel that if we keep getting crosses in, more than likely we’re going to find the back of the net on one of them. We’ll tie up the series and go from there.”
The match will now head to Red Bull Arena for the return leg on Thursday, November 4th. The Earthquakes earned a 6-5-4 record when playing away from home, while the Red Bulls are 10-3-2 in Harrison. The Red Bulls impressive record includes a 2-0 victory over San Jose in August.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Backe's men is the nagging groin of Lindpere. Already faced with injuries to Thierry Henry, Tony Tchani, and Salou Ibrahim, the hearts of Red Bulls fans skipped a beat, when Lindpere left the field limping when he was substituted in the 91st minute. Adding perhaps, the comment of the night, Backe assuaged any fear that Lindpere might miss the second leg.
"Estonian guys, they are complaining a little bit too much," joked Backe. "He'll be ready for Thursday."