FRISCO, Texas – In a grueling 90 minutes on a chilly Wednesday night, the New York Red Bulls played the final quarter of the match with 10 men but survived to emerge 2-0 victors over FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park.
In the first wild card match of the MLS Cup playoffs, Joel Lindpere scored the winner midway through in the second half, guiding home a low cross from Mehdi Ballouchy to seal New York’s ticket to the playoffs proper. Thierry Henry tallied the insurance goal in stoppage time to ensure the win.
Red Bulls right back Jan Gunnar Solli saw a straight red card in the 79th minute after a hard foul from behind on FCD captain Daniel Hernandez.
New York will go on to face the LA Galaxy in a home-and-home series in one of the two Western Conference semifinal matchups.
At the start, FC Dallas seemed to put to bed the notion that they were coming in with tired legs. After head coach Schellas Hyndman rested most of his first XI in the season finale, the home side came flying out of the gates, showing their speed early and pressuring New York to keep them on their heels for the first half hour of the match.
FCD got the assault going early, but it wasn’t until the quarter of an hour mark that they gave the Red Bulls a scare. Winger Marvin Chávez came up on a loose ball at the top of the box after a Tim Ream deflection and unleashed a shot that curled just wide of the post.
Perhaps the best chances of the first half fell to Jackson. The FC Dallas forward had two good opportunites to put his team up on top, the first of which came in the 19th minute, when Brek Shea made a run down the left flank a served a ball into the box for Jackson, who failed to beat New York ‘keeper Frank Rost.
Jackson’s best chance, however, came towards the end of the first half. FCD right back Zach Loyd launched an inch-perfect cross from deep on the right flank right into the heart of the box, but Jackson’s ensuing header sailed wide over the crossbar.
But it wasn’t all FCD in the first period. The Red Bulls, who struggled to find their footing in the early going, finally settled into the match in the final 15 minutes.
Henry, back in the line-up after serving a one-game suspension for a red card, announced New York’s intent in the 32nd minute, putting a shot just high of the crossbar.
Ream followed that up with a blast of his own five minutes later. The center back controlled a weak clearance inside the box, lined up his shot, and fired toward goal only to have Kevin Hartman come up with the big stop.
The second half kicked off at a slower tempo, and again it was FCD who launched the first warning. In the 58th minute, after Red Bulls defender Stephen Keel brought down Jackson four yards outside the box, Hernandez took a free kick and curled it inches wide of the near post.
But New York answered right back, and they made sure this time it counted. After a George John giveaway in the 61st minute, Lindpere began the goal-scoring sequence by putting a hard shot on target that forced Hartman into a nice diving save. Richards collected the rebound out on the right side and got it to Ballouchy, who crossed it back into the box for the Estonian to slot it under Hartman and into the net for the lead.
FCD attempted the comeback and nearly had the equalizer in the 76th minute. Jackson dribbled towards the middle of the field and put a ball through for Shea. The big winger chipped an onrushing Rost, but his shot was cleared by Ream before it could cross the line or Maicon Santos could get to it.
The Red Bulls saw their field count go down to 10 with just about 10 minutes to go in regulation when Solli slid in hard from behind on Hernandez. Ricardo Salazar wasted no time in correctly sending off the Norwegian.
With a one-man advantage, FCD went on the offensive. Both Jackson and Santos each had a shot on goal, but neither really troubled Rost.
In stoppage time, with FC Dallas defenders completely committed into the Red Bulls' half of the field, Henry pounced on a long ball and marched towards goal. He failed to knock in his first shot but succeeded in his attempt off the rebound to ice the match.
The loss put and end to FC Dallas' long journey in 2011.
With the victory, New York will go on to face the LA Galaxy at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, Oct. 30, in the first of their two-leg aggregate goals series. The second leg is scheduled for Thurs., Nov. 3, at The Home Depot Center.
NY -- Joel Lindpere 1 (Mehdi Ballouchy 1) 61
NY -- Thierry Henry 1 (unassisted) 98+
New York Red Bulls -- Frank Rost, Solli Jan Gunnar, Stephen Keel, Tim Ream, Roy Miller, Dax McCarty (Mehdi Ballouchy 59), Teemu Tainio, Rafael Marquez, Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards (Carloa Mendes 82), Thierry Henry.
Substitutes Not Used: Stephane Auvray, Juan Agudelo, Bouna Coundoul.
FC Dallas -- Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu, Zach Loyd, Daniel Hernandez, George John, Jair Benitez, Marvin Chavez (Maicon Santos 73), Ricardo Villar (Fabian Castillo 82), Andrew Jacobson (Danny Cruz 67), Brek Shea, Jackson Goncalves.
Substitutes Not Used: Jeremy Hall, Jack Stewart, Bobby Warshaw, Chris Seitz.
NY -- Tim Ream (caution; Tactical Foul) 27
DAL -- Ugo Ihemelu (caution; Reckless Tackle) 31
DAL -- Daniel Hernandez (caution; Reckless Tackle) 51
NY -- Solli Jan Gunnar (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 79
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Peter Manikowski
4th Official: Edvin Jurisevic
Time of Game: 1:57