Nov. 10, 2008
By Dylan Butler / MLSnet.com Staff
HOUSTON – In the greatest victory in their 13-year history, the New York Red Bulls defeated the Houston Dynamo 3-0 in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal Series Sunday at Robertson Stadium.
On first-half goals by Dane Richards and Juan Pablo Angel and a second-half tally by John Wolyniec, the Red Bulls claimed the series 4-1 on aggregate goals and advance to the Western Conference Championship to face Real Salt Lake next Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
(Former Clemson Soccer player Dane Richards plays for the New York Red Bulls. Richards played for the Tigers in 2005 and 2006. He was an All-American in 2006 and was named All-South and All-ACC that season.)
It was one of the greatest upsets in the history of the MLS Cup Playoffs and only the second time the Red Bulls advanced out of the first round. It was the second-ever road playoff victory in club history — and just the second victory away from home this season. The first road playoff victory was also in the Lone Star State, when the Red Bulls beat FC Dallas on Sept. 20, 2000.
The Red Bulls stunned the orange-clad Dynamo fans when Richards gave the visitors a 1-0 lead on 25 minutes. Dave van den Bergh passed to Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who looked like he was attempting to play Angel through on the ground.
The ball though found Richards, who blew past Wade Barrett and into the box, where he rifled an attempt from 12 yards out past Pat Onstad.
Ten minutes later, Richards’ speed again set the Red Bulls’ second goal when he ran free down the right and his cross was handled by Ricardo Clark and referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot. Angel stepped up and put his penalty kick into the side netting to Onstad’s right to give the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead.
Richards helped clinch the stunning victory when he made a remarkable run to the end line, crossing the ball in front to John Wolyniec, who tapped the ball into the empty net in the 81st minute to ensure that there will be a new MLS Cup champion as the two-time defending champs were ousted.
Houston threatened early, as Cepero briefly bobbled a Brad Davis corner kick in the fourth minute, but the ball was cleared from danger.
One minute later, van den Bergh was the first player in Toledo’s book for pulling down Dwayne De Rosario.
In the seventh minute Clark played Barrett through, but his left-footed shot was side of the far post.
The Red Bulls first scoring chance came in the 22nd minute when Richards fed Chris Leitch down the right flank and the defender whipped in a cross to an open Angel at the far post, but his header glanced off the post and out.
A bad touch on the ball by Cepero gave Ching a free look at goal, but the rookie goalkeeper did well to recover, taking the ball off Ching’s head in the 38th minute.
Three minutes later Angel came close to a first-half brace, but his low shot was wide of the far post.
In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, Sassano was booked for pulling down De Rosario, resulting in a dangerous free kick for Dynamo from 24 yards out. Davis served the ball into the box and found Ching, but he headed the ball wide.
Osorio went with the same starting lineup as in the opening leg last Saturday at Giants Stadium. Kinnear made one change up top, starting Kei Kamara, who scored the late equalizer, for Nate Jaqua.
Kinnear made one change at the half, bringing on Corey Ashe for Barrett and switching to a 3-5-2 formation.
Houston pressured immediately, but Cepero came up with a huge save in the 53rd minute, kicking away a Ching attempt from 12 yards out after the Hawaiian was played into the box by Kamara. That would be Kamara’s final touch of the game, replaced one minute later by Jaqua.
Cepero parried a header by Eddie Robinson off the crossbar from a Brian Mullan corner in the 59th minute and Ching headed the rebound wide of the net.
Three minutes later Robinson was booked for a foul on Richards, setting up a free kick 25 yards from goal. But van den Bergh put the attempt off the end of the Houston wall.
Kinnear made his final change in the 67th minute, bringing on Stuart Holden for Davis. The move nearly paid immediate dividends one minute later, but Holden’s low shot rolled just wide of the far post.
Onstad and Mullan were each carded three minutes apart midway through a frenetic second half.
Cepero got a hand on Jaqua’s header off a corner kick in the 75th minute. Three minutes later, Holden hit a bullet from distance that Cepero got a piece of. The ball caromed out to Ashe, whose shot deflected out for another corner.
Holden had an open opportunity from 12 yards out, but he was robbed by Cepero, who kicked out his left leg to make a magnificent save in the 78th minute. Three minutes later Wolyniec helped book the Red Bulls’ ticket to Sandy, Utah with his first goal of the season.
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