HARRISON, N.J. – After a brief absence, the heartache that has become all too familiar for the New York Red Bulls returned on Wednesday.
The Red Bulls were painfully shown the exit door from the MLS Cup playoffs after falling 2-1 in extratime and 4-3 on aggregate to the Houston Dynamo.
The defeat at Red Bull Arena not only stung because of the manner in which it transpired – New York took an early lead but gifted the Dynamo an equalizer that brought Houston newfound life – but also because it ended a season that appeared to have so much more potential given the club’s now-snapped nine-game unbeaten run and unprecedented Supporters’ Shield title.
“I think the thing that’s most shocking for everyone is how it ended,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles. “I don’t think anybody in here had the thought in their minds that tonight was going to be the end of our season. So anticlimactic. It’s definitely going to sting for a while.”
The pain and devastation felt in years past filled New York’s locker room after the match, so much so that a good chunk of the club’s players left before the media could make their way in.
The players that spoke, however, all had a clear message about how frustrating it was to see such a promising year end with a series in which individual mistakes reigned supreme.
“Massive disappointment because of the way it’s happened,” said midfielder Tim Cahill. “You assess the first game being 2-0 up and cruising [before tying 2-2] and assess the second game being 1-0 up and cruising. We look at ourselves. That’s it. There’s no one else to blame.
“It hurts because we had a massive chance to do something in this MLS Cup and we gifted Houston pretty much three goals in these two ties.”
The Red Bulls and their fans will have an entire offseason to reflect on what could have gone differently in this decisive clash and series with the Dynamo. But first they will need to move past the feeling of despair that seemed to have disappeared for good before resurfacing on Wednesday.
“It stings because we’re definitely the better team,” said Cahill. “It stings in that scenario, but overall their coach gets the best out of these players and the best tonight was for them to just grind an ugly result away from home and that’s what they did.
“But we threw away the tie away from home and now when we look back, it’s just crazy. But if you want to win an MLS Cup, you have to be a lot better than that.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.