A two-match playoff series doesn't leave a lot of room for error. Unfortunately for the New York Red Bulls, an error-filled first leg saw them fall 2-0 behind the Columbus Crew and will now need a nearly perfect performance in next weekend's series finale to advance.

It could not have started worse for New York at Crew Stadium after Columbus winger Justin Meram (who had spent much of the last week racking up frequent flyer miles) scored just nine seconds into the match:

"It was embarrassing defending, schoolyard stuff,"; said team captain Dax McCarty about the goal, which was the fastest in MLS playoff history. "Before the series started, I said that maybe we were a little bit naïve and that was a good thing, it turned out to be a bad thing. We showed our inexperience."

Shell shocked, the Red Bulls were unable to really get into the match until the second half. The attack misfired frequently, with only two of the sixteen shots being on target. With the Red Bulls not having been shut out since May, hope remained that a crucial away goal might be coming, or that New York might escape with a manageable 1-0 loss. But five minutes from the final whistle, substitute Cedrick Mabwati danced around the Red Bulls defense and set Kei Kamara up for a dagger goal in front of 400 traveling RBNY supporters:

Coach Jesse Marsch was down but not out. "All together on the night, we weren't alert enough, we didn't cover enough ground, we didn't make it hard on them, we didn't win enough loose balls, we didn't do enough. We let ourselves down."

The game scenarios going into Sunday's return leg (7:30 PM, Fox Sports 1) are bleak. A 2-0 win at home for RBNY would be enough to send the game to extra time, while a 3-0 would give them a win. But a single Crew goal would force the Red Bulls to win the match by three goals above and beyond whatever Columbus can manage.

For Red Bulls fans grasping for a life line in hopes of hosting (and hoisting) MLS Cup, all I can give you is this: the Red Bulls have earned home results with those sorts of score lines four times this year. But none of those came against the Crew.