Joel Lindpere proved once again why so many consider him the teams Most Valuable Player.
When things looked bleak, Lindpere stepped up. The Estonian international created space within the box amongst a mass of F.C. Dallas defenders and managed to poke a pin point feed from second half substitute Mehdi Ballouchy to beat Kevin Hartman and deliver New York the game winning goal. Thierry Henry would go on to seal the game in extra time, delivering the Red Bulls a vital Wild Card win and a guaranteed conference semifinal berth against the leagues class franchise; the L.A. Galaxy.
Though the 2-0 scoreline may seem dominant, New York’s performance was anything but. Had F.C. Dallas put away the opportunities gifted to them throughout the first half, the Red Bulls would have had to climb a steep mountain to secure a spot in the conference semi’s. Instead, a dangerous Dallas attack would only manage to create threatening situations, but lacked the finishing acumen necessary to seal the game.
Dallas managed an eye popping twenty three shots total, with only seven directed on German keeper Frank Rost. They enjoyed large chunks of dominant play, up until Lindpere’s creeper in the 61st. The speed of Brek Shea, Jackson and Marvin Chavez proved to be a handful for the back line, but excellent positioning and steady play in net nullified any real goal danger.
An unlikely hero would emerge for the Red Bulls. Already missing Luke Rodgers and Chris Albright, New York suffered another set back when Dax McCarty sprained his ankle, forcing a substitution. Mehdi Ballouchy made the most of his insertion, as he set up the game winning play just two minutes into his shift.
Things would certainly begin to look dour for New York by the 79th minute. Jan Gunnar Solli took an ill advised, double footed studs up tackle from behind on Dallas captain and former Metro, Daniel Hernandez. Once again, Dallas would buzz near and around the New York area but simply could not connect to create any real danger.
Henry would squash the buzzing attempts, as he delivered the game for New York in extra time, dashing towards the Dallas net, taking his own rebound off of a shot on Kevin Hartman, and comfortably tapping in the games second, and deciding goal.
New York now qualifies for a run through the Western conference, starting with a Sunday clash at Red Bull Arena against the Supporters Shield champion Los Angeles Galaxy. They will face a very real prospect of taking on the leagues class franchise without Luke Rodgers or Dax McCarty in the first of this home and home series.