Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By MIKE NASTRI
HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls are a sinking ship.
New York, after a gutsy win in Dallas on Saturday, had a chance to strengthen its playoff hold. Real Salt Lake was without suspended midfield rock Kyle Beckerman and traveled cross country after a hard-fought win against Sporting KC on Saturday. But any doubt that RSL would collect their fifth win a row was erased almost immediately.
RSL scored three goals in the opening 21 minutes to roll to a 3-1 victory and deal a heavy blow to the Red Bulls' postseason hopes.
In the eighth minute, Andy Williams spun a perfect corner to the head of Alvaro Saborio. The Costa Rican Designated Player beat Teemu Tainio to the ball and finished for the early 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, RSL continued it's scoring ways and the Red Bulls continued their sloppy play. Jan Gunnar Solli, back off a suspension, played a simple ball back to Tim Ream. The U.S. international centerback played a sloppy, short pass toward goalkeeper Frank Rost that was easily picked off by Fabian Espindola, and the Argentine easily finished the gift to give Salt Lake a two-goal lead.
"Obviously we have a lot of stars and good players," said Red Bulls Designated Player Rafa Marquez. "But if we cannot gel together that doesn’t mean anything.
New York head coach Hans Backe added: "It was more about the individual mistakes. I don’t think we played poor or anything, but it’s frustrating with that kind of individual mistake. It kills the first half definitely, and the game."
Espindola continued the onslaught in the 21st minute after some superb passing from RSL. Collen Warner played a one-two with Saborio at the edge of the midfield circle in Red Bull territory. Warner found a streaking Espindola cutting behind the New York defense and flicked the ball with his left foot past an oncoming Rost. Espindola's ninth goal of the season gave Salt Lake a 3-0 edge.
“We are a team that is kind of clicking right now," said RSL goalie Nick Rimando. "I don’t think we are playing our best but we are playing good and we are playing good at the right time.
Rimando added: "With New York you don’t know what to expect because sometimes they can be really good and sometimes they don’t click. Lucky enough we dropped on them early and never looked back.”
New York got one back in the 68th minute. Shortly after Joel Lindpere rocked the cross bar with a long distance shot, the Estonian finished a acrobatic bicycle kick to cut into the deficit. The 2010 team MVP's seventh goal of the season was too little, too late for New York, though, as their fate was sealed with 24 minutes left in the first half.
The loss puts the Red Bulls' playoff position into further peril. Portland's tie against San Jose on Wednesday put them one point clear of New York for the tenth and final playoff spot. Chivas USA's late comeback on D.C. United for the 2-2 draw put D.C. two points out of the 10th and only a point behind the Red Bulls. Four out New York's final five games are against playoff teams including one this Saturday against Portland. The winner would take a monster step toward their playoff hopes.
"Everyone is now aware it's a must win," said Backe. "We can't go in and get a tie or anything. That's the consequences and conclusion when we go out Saturday. We need to win."
RSL's playoff hopes are all but secure as the win pushes them into a tie for second in the Western Conference with Seattle. RSL faces a favorable schedule down the stretch as they try to push the LA Galaxy for the Supporter's Shield. Salt Lake has one match left against L.A. at the Home Depot Center on Oct. 1.
"I think that we have demonstrated clearly over two years what we are capable of winning some games and going on runs," said RSL head coach Jason Kreis. "I believe that we should be considered as contenders for the championship and that is how we think about ourselves.”