As Thierry Henry walked off the field on Saturday afternoon following his straight red card in the 28th minute of a 2-0 loss at Kansas City, he cleared mouthed the word “Wow.”
And he wasn’t the only one.
New York were doomed to play without their star player even after they’d been outplayed from the opening whistle, and it didn’t get much better after Henry hit the showers.
Down a man, the Red Bulls dropped into a shell as Sporting did well to take advantage of being up a man with second half goals via set pieces by Burnbury in the 57th minute and then C.J. Sapong, who iced the result 17 minutes later.
“We knew coming here would be tough because they play good at home, and then losing Henry in the 28th was ever tougher,” midfielder Dane Richards told MLSsoccer.com. “We managed to hold out and gave up two goals on set pieces – disappointed about that.”
The red card now has macro implications on the playoff picture. Henry’s ejection could be a potentially lethal blow for the Red Bulls, who needed a result in Kansas City to help shore up a postseason berth.
Entering the game in the 10th and final playoff spot, next Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena will decide the team’s fate.
“[Thursday is] the last game of the season to have three points - anything else is not doable,” defender Stephen Keel said. “It’s definitely a must-win, I know we say it all the time but if there was ever the definition of a must-win, it’s Thursday night.”
It is also likely that the loss dooms the Red Bulls to battling for a wild card position to get into the playoffs. With the loss, it is now more of an uphill battle for the team to claim one of the top three spots in the Eastern Conference and automatic entry into the postseason.
With the win, Sporting clinched a playoff berth and moved into a tie atop the conference alongside Philadelphia, who drew 1-1 in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.
Having entered the game just two points behind Sporting for sole possession of third place, the Red Bulls’ road to the playoffs got a lot more difficult.
“We got a must-win against them,” Richards said. “It’s going to be a tough task, but we have to do it.”