Red Bulls Snap Skid, Reach Playoffs for Eighth Straight Year

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

Red Bulls logoHARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls qualified for the Major League Soccer playoffs for the eighth straight year with a victory on Saturday, snapping a nine-game winless streak with a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Daniel Royer scored for a second straight game, Bradley Wright-Phillips added his team-leading 17th and Felipe Martins had his second goal of the season to give the Red Bulls 46 points in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with two games to play. Montreal, New England and Philadelphia all share seventh with 39 points.

The victory was the first for the Red Bulls since a 3-2 win over FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 15.

“It’s a good feeling,” Wright-Phillips said. “Because there’s been times where our players deserved to win, but stupid mistakes have cost us. And today, we cut that out and we got the win. This is what it should have looked like weeks ago. Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner.”

The loss was only the second for Vancouver in its last 10 matches, leaving them firmly atop the Western Conference with 51 points.

New York controlled throughout, leading by 2-0 before Vancouver managed to get its first shot in the 68th minute by Tim Parker.

“The defense was great tonight,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles, who had to make only one save on the night, a shot by Nicolas Mezquida from distance in the 88th. “This week, Jesse [Marsch, coach] has really challenged each defender and the goalkeepers to be better, and make a difference. In the beginning of the season he did that to the attacking players because we weren’t getting goals.

“But, they’ve been scoring, so now it’s on our end.”

The Red Bulls had a few chances before Royer scored tallied in the 33rd minute, his first in the run of play since July 29.

Tyler Adams played the ball into the middle to Sacha Kljestan, who was unmarked 30 yards from goal. Royer and Wright-Phillips had overlapping runs to the left of Kljestan, who played the ball their way. Wright-Phillips dummied it and let the ball run to Royer, who touched to the corner of the goal box before beating David Ousted into the far-side netting.

The Red Bulls doubled in the 58th minute when Adams played the ball out of midfield to Wright-Phillips. Aaron Maund fell trying to intercept leaving Wright-Phillips to race 45 yards chased by Parker before he deftly chipped over Vancouver keeper David Ousted.

Martins added the finale in the 72nd. Kljestan worked his way to the byline on the left and, challenged by Aly Ghazal, knocked the ball back outside the 18 as he fell. Martins ran on to the rolling ball and one-timed a blast that hit the right-side netting.

New York finished the match outshooting Vancouver by 18-3 and by 8-1 in shots on goal.

The result still left New York four points behind the fifth-place Columbus Crew. This is the 14th season in the last 15 the Red Bulls have qualified for the playoffs, but should it finish in sixth, it would be the lowest finish except for the lone year it did not reach the post-season (2009).

“Based on the way September went, we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole for what the playoffs will be, but I think this group will relish us being the underdog,” Marsch said. “We’ve been the favorite, had a target on our back. And I think is the kind of group that will enjoy having everybody think that they can’t achieve their goals.”

Both teams were without key personnel due to World Cup qualifying with the Red Bulls missing Panamanian defenders Michael Murillo and Fidel Escobar, while Vancouver had to play without Costa Ricans Christian Bolanos and Kendall Waston, and Peruvian midfielder Yordy Reyna.