New England Revolution 2, New York Red Bulls 2 | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Recap
The New York Red Bulls made them sweat until the very end, but the New England Revolution are headed back to MLS Cup.
A brace from Charlie Davies was just enough to hold off a spirited Red Bulls performance and earn the Revs a 2-2 draw at Gillette Stadium in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship on Saturday, allowing the home side to advance to the MLS Cup final for the fifth time.
The occasion drew the biggest home playoff crowd in Revolution history, but they were perched at the edge of their seats all afternoon as New England had to rally from behind twice thanks to goals from Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula.
Each side made one change to their starting lineups, one forced by injury, the other by suspension, as Kevin Alston replaced Kelyn Rowe for New England and Cahill came on for the Red Bulls in place of league-leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Somewhat surprisingly, New England sat back in the early going and New York seized the initiative with several menacing moves. The Revs defense was sliced open in the 6th minute by Lloyd Sam's run, only for the winger's teasing cutback to roll just beyond Luyindula's reach at the far post.
Thierry Henry outwitted Andrew Farrell along the endline in the 13th minute and hit a cross towards an unmarked Cahill in the goalmouth, but Bobby Shuttleworth scrambled off his line to palm the ball away at the last possible moment.
Just when it seemed the home side had ridden out their rough start, New York's Designated Player duo struck to snatch the crucial opening goal in the 27th minute.
Henry swiveled just outside of the box and curled a lofted cross to Cahill as the Australian floated in behind Jose Goncalves, who recovered well to get goalside as Cahill chested the ball down. But Cahill stretched out a foot between Goncalves' legs and poked a savvy finish past a flat-footed Shuttleworth to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead.
Yet the hosts rallied as Davies dug out an equalizer to change the dynamic again four minutes before halftime.
After a short corner, the Revs striker got the decisive touch to Chris Tierney's inswinging cross from the right as the ball snuck past Luis Robles and bounced into the net to run the aggregate score to 3-2 heading into the break.
In contrast to the first half, the second stanza opened with the Red Bulls showing their nerves. First a poor back pass gave Jermaine Jones a chance to lead a quick Revs break, but he fired wide of the target instead of passing to Davies. Moments later, a sharp Lee Nguyen pass gave Davies a good look only for his curler to fly wide of the right post.
Then Luyindula – as he has several times during the Red Bulls' postseason run – made his presence felt.
When Farrell miscontrolled Henry's cross in the Revs box, Luyindula was the first to react, latching on to the loose ball and firing past Shuttleworth to retake the lead – and draw New York level on aggregate at 3-3 on the series.
With both teams level on goals and away goals, extra time loomed and the game picked up a pulsating flow from end to end.
New England coach Jay Heaps had pushed Tierney into a midfield role and fielded Alston at left back to address the wide threat of Sam, and in the 70th minute Tierney changed the game again when floated wide left to deliver a pinpoint cross for Davies.
The onetime US international elevated and nodded a header past Robles to nudge the Revolution ahead again, as the club-record 32,698 in attendance at Gillette exploded in joy.
But thanks to the away-goals rule, New York only needed one more goal to win the series, as Henry calmly reminded his team before the restart. And they proceeded to pin the Revs back in their own half for most of the game's tense conclusion.
Luyindula went agonizingly close again on the doorstep in the 79th. Shuttleworth had to bravely dive at Henry's feet and block the ball away from the French legend with the goal gaping in the 88th. But when Toledo's final whistle arrived, New England had outlasted the siege to book a spot in their fifth MLS Cup final, and first since 2007.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Bobby Shuttleworth||On a day when many of his teammates were off their best, the Revs' GK came to play, making several crucial plays.|
|2||Thierry Henry||Fans across the world are hoping the French icon isn't ready to retire just yet -- nearly every touch posed danger today.|
The first goal wasn't all that pretty (and was it a handball?) but they all count the same, and they were exactly what his side needed.