This was supposed to be different for the New York Red Bulls. They had won the Supporters' Shield to win their first trophy in club history and were primed to make a run at MLS Cup. Instead, it ended up like every other season -- with disappointment. After a 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal, the Red Bulls fell to Dominic Kinnear's team in extra time, 2-1, on Wednesday night to end their season.
As remarkable as the Red Bulls' loss seems, especially considering they led 2-0 in the first leg, this is old hat for the Dynamo. Every year it seems like they will finally fall. Every year it seems like they don't have a chance. And every year, Kinnear guides his team to MLS Cup. He's done it in each of the last two years and now that they've taken down the Supporters' Shield winners, it feels like the Dynamo are found for the final yet again.
New York had much of the play early on, stretching the Houston midfield wide and opening up space in the center, but they couldn't create chances from it. Their forays forward resulted in little more than giveaways and lazy crosses. One of those lazy crosses paid off, though. Tally Hall made sure it would.
Lloyd Sam got down the right, but he had few options to he crossed into the center, but it was slow and easy for Hall to get to at the near post, only Hall couldn't corral it. He got to the ball first and was unchallenged, but he dropped the cross, allowing Bradley Wright-Phillips to jump on the loose ball and tap it into the net.
But just as the Dynamo gifted the Red Bulls a goal, New York handed one to Houston.Ibrahim Sekagya, who had injured his hamstring moment earlier, hit a terrible pass across the field that was intercepted by Brad Davis 20 yards from goal. He took a touch and left all alone on goal, fired past Luis Robles to bring the Dynamo level.
From then on, Robles could have taken a nap for the rest of regulation. He was called upon every once in a while, but he wasn't really tested. All the while Hall had to come up huge on multiple occasions. He denied Tim Cahill once on a spectacular save and added another great one in the second half. Especially in the last 90 minutes, the Red Bulls dominated, but they couldn't find a goal.
In extra time, it was clear that the Dynamo were the tired team. They were playing their fifth match in 15 days and several players appeared to cramp up, but they managed to keep New York out.
Then Omar Cummings struck.
Right in front of the post, Cummings was able to push the ball just barely over the line. It wasn't too different from his last minute tying goal in the first leg, only this time it was even more valuable.
The Dynamo did well to see out the rest of the match, with a Thierry Henry free kick that skied over the bar marking the Red Bulls' lone chance to equalize. Once again, Houston had done it in the playoffs and their quest for a third consecutive MLS Cup appearance. And New York, well, they had managed to disappoint once again.
New York Red Bulls: Robles, Barklage, Holgersson, Sekagya, Carney, Sam, McCarty, Cahill, Steele; Wright-Phillips, Henry.
Goals: Wright-Phillips 23'
Houston Dynamo: Hall, Sarkodie, Boswell, Brunner, Ashe; Garcia, Creavalle, Clark, Davis, Barnes, Bruin.
Goals: Davis 36', Cummings 104'