It was a night labeled “Do or Die” for RBNY; a team that has seen many ups and downs, with a season leaving most fans questioning Coach Hans Backe and all the decisions made. Following the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal, where LA Galaxy beat RBNY at home, tensions were high as the post-game scuffle comments continued to surface. Perhaps the most noted quote was that of Landon Donovan-“We have never played a cheaper team”-whether he really meant it, or simply made the statement to get RBNY riled up, he had succeeded in ruffling everyone’s feathers.
Many fans in the NJ area made their way to Catas in Newark for the official NJ viewing party, hosted by the Viking Army. Smoke bombs, flares and chants filled the bar as fans were hopeful; while many had mixed emotions on Rafa’s performance over the season, most were content that the Mexican National would not be featured in this crucial matchup.
Backe opted for strikers Henry and Rodgers up front, while the midfield consisted of Lindpere, Tainio, Mccarty who was chosen to replace Rafa and speedy Dane Richards. The defensive back four would see the likes of Miller, Ream, Keel and Solli, while Frank Rost would guard the net.
Bruce Arena also faced the task of selecting a replacement for Juninho, who had also received a red card following the scuffle, but unlike Backe, Arena seems to have confidence in his bench and chose Birchall as the replacement.
RBNY entered the field in the same gear they had worn during the Emirates Cup; the famed yellow shorts. Perhaps a good luck omen, but on American soil, the shorts did not see the same luck as it had when RBNY went on to win the Emirates Cup. Perhaps more intimidating was the fact that LA Galaxy had yet to lose a game at home all season, and further pressure as RBNY is the only team from the East that has yet to win the coveted MLS Cup, despite being considered the cream of the crop in the East.
As the game started, RBNY seemed like a more composed team. Evidently they were well aware that the time had come for them to show what they were really made of, and in the 4th minute, Luke Rodgers stepped up; a nice pass from Henry found Rodgers in front of the net. LAG defender, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong side of Rodgers, and the Englishman passed GK Saunders without any effort. Calm, cool and collected would best describe this early goal. Was there hope; RBNY had yet to lose a game when scoring first. For the first 15 minutes it seemed like RBNY could cause a major upset as they seemed in control of the game.
To the dismay of RBNY fans, the fire and desire seemed to fizzle after the first 15 minutes as LAG found their stride; it may have taken LAG until the 41st minute to score, but as they did they were back in the lead (on aggregate). The goal would come from a Beckham corner kick that found Magee, who put it in the back of the net with a header. Coincidentally, Magee was the only player to score in the first leg of this semifinal matchup. One would think that Backe and the boys would have made more of an effort to mark this key player, but alas, RBNY was trailing.
As halftime stats were announced, possession was split evenly, leaving RBNY fans with some hope of a miracle in the second half, however RBNY came out and frustration was evident as the plays became more physical, reckless and dangerous. One such play would be the final nail in the coffin for RBNY; the 74th minute saw Miller in a reckless tackle on Beckham from behind- one that granted LAG a penalty kick. Donovan took the penalty without breaking a sweat and for the first time during the game, RBNY seemed unable to make a comeback.
The remaining minutes saw LAG hold onto their lead, as RBNY kept rallying but it would prove too much for the boys from the East Coast. LA Galaxy had clinched a spot in the final four, while RBNY would return home as their season came to an end.
Post game, numerous reports had surfaced; Backe stated that Rafa Marquez would indeed be returning next season. As for Backe’s position as coach, it is questionable- with a team consisting of accomplished veterans and young talent, one would assume he would be able to find the chemistry to finally lead RBNY into the Championship spot.
LA Galaxy is set to face Real Salt Lake, while Houston is set to face Sporting Kansas City. Both games are to be played on Sunday, November 6th.
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