New York booked the tenth and final playoff place with a straightforward 1-0 victory over Philadelphia at Red Bull Arena on Thursday night.
The decisive tally arrived through a Faryd Mondragon own goal after eight minutes. Dane Richards headed Jan Gunnar Solli's inviting cross off the bar, but the ball bounced off Mondragon's back and into the net to seal the Red Bulls' place in the postseason.
The Friday Five kicks off this week's Forecast with a few words about the match and its ramifications:
1. The impossible second act: This earnest battle could never live up to the enthralling, helter-skelter conclusion to Wednesday's 1-1 draw between D.C. United and Portland. Unfortunately, the early own goal and Philadelphia's poor performance meant this match didn't even threaten to produce the type of spectacle offered up in midweek.
2. Was there ever a doubt about the Red Bulls' playoff future?: The question is offered in jest, but New York – without the suspended Henry – showed up just in time to grab the playoff berth it should have sealed up months ago. It always felt like the Red Bulls would figure out a way to sneak into the playoffs with all of that talent, but they still could have squandered it until the final whistle. Fortunately for Hans Backe's side, redemption looms on the other side of a few consecutive results and a trip to MLS Cup.
3. This match turned in the wide areas: New York's desire to push its fullbacks into attacking positions (particularly Jan Gunnar Solli on the right) exposed Philadelphia's deficiencies in defending in the wide areas. The extra numbers in attack heaped far too much pressure on Union fullbacks Gabriel Farfan and Sheanon Williams and underscored the Union's so-so commitment to tracking runners down the wings. Solli, in particular, posed problems and served up the cross that ultimately resulted in the decisive opener.
4. Philadelphia could suffer severe repercussions for its off night: Philadelphia never really found its rhythm. Usually, Union boss Peter Nowak can rely on a second-half response after a few tweaks and a halftime chat. No such lift arrived against New York even after Nowak made two substitions at halftime. Dropping a point (or three, for the most optimistic of sorts) at Red Bull Arena could see Philly slide into the wild card round – and, potentially, an away match in it – if results in Chicago, Houston and Vancouver go against them. Such a fate would loom as a harsh punishment for a side that entered the evening with a chance to finish with the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
5. Bruce Arena won't particularly relish this result, either: All of a sudden, it looks plausible that preseason MLS Cup favorites Los Angeles and New York could meet in the Western Conference semifinals. New York must pass a stern test at either FC Dallas or Real Salt Lake to set up the glamorous tie, but the potential buzz and energy surrounding such a meeting does not present a particularly palatable scenario for the Supporters' Shield winners.
Last week: 4/9 (44%)
For the season: 96/246 (39%)
New England @ Toronto FC – 12:30p.m. (TSN)
This match could serve as the cap to the Revolution careers of fixtures Shalrie Joseph and Steve Nicol. It stands to reason that the Revs will want to rise to the occasion against a TFC side that could experience a bit of a hangover after its Champions League success at FC Dallas on Tuesday.
Colorado @ Vancouver – 7:00p.m.
Colorado faces a tough turnaround after its midweek jaunt to Mexico, but Gary Smith rested half of his regulars – not including the suspended Drew Moor – and should have most of his key players available for this vital fixture. A loss (or even a draw) could see the Rapids lose out on a home game in the wild card round, but Colorado should adjust to the demands of this game and obtain the necessary result.
Prediction: Colorado win.
Sporting Kansas City @ D.C. United – 7:30p.m.
United must somehow try to pick up the pieces after failing to collect the necessary victory against Portland on Wednesday night. Dwayne De Rosario looks like a doubt with an ankle injury. If DeRo can't go, then Sporting – a side that must win to guarantee top spot in the Eastern Conference – will find its task considerably easier.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.
Columbus @ Chicago – 8:30p.m.
Robert Warzycha's side requires a result to solidify its spot among the top three in the Eastern Conference. Chicago saw its playoff dreams ended on Thursday, but the Fire has played well enough to suggest this affair won't pass without incident. Columbus will have to submit a similar performance to the one offered at New England last weekend in order to secure a result against the Fire (sans the suspended Josip Mikulic) and stay in the race for one of the three Eastern Conference berths.
Prediction: Columbus win.
Portland @ Real Salt Lake – 9:00p.m.
Most of the tension surrounding this match slipped away when New York took care of business on Thursday night. RSL needs to submit a decent performance without the suspended Kyle Beckerman for two reasons: (1) it needs to muster up some sort of attacking form heading into the postseason and (2) it needs to match FCD's result at San Jose in order to book third spot in the Western Conference. It's tough to bet against the Claret-and-Cobalt in these circumstances.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
FC Dallas @ San Jose – 10:30p.m.
FCD coach Schellas Hyndman must weigh the following proposition carefully: is it better for his regulars – minus the suspended Jackson, of course – to (1) take some rest now and try to make it through the wild card round and the theoretically easier Eastern Conference bracket or (2) play vigorously against the Earthquakes and hope RSL stumbles at home against Portland to grab third spot in the Western Conference?
Prediction: FC Dallas win.
Seattle @ Chivas USA – 10:30p.m.
There isn't a lick of importance in this match for either side. Expect Sigi Schmid to rest a few of his starters – maybe it's time to give Fredy Montero a break? – and the home side to post a victory to send its fans away with a positive ending to a fairly encouraging season.
Prediction: Chivas USA win.
Los Angeles @ Houston – 7:00p.m. (Galavision)
Houston will know exactly what result it must secure to position itself properly in the playoff race. Los Angeles – even with a lineup unlikely to include David Beckham or Landon Donovan – will make it difficult for the home side to pick and choose its final playoff placement, but Dominic Kinnear's squad should dispatch the Galaxy and, perhaps, avoid a spot in the wild card round.
Prediction: Houston win.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.