The opening match of the MLS Playoffs saw the #4 Wildcard New York Red Bulls travel to Frisco, Texas to face the #1 Wildcard FC Dallas. With a strong streak against Dallas - New York has won three and tied two of their last five meetings - RBNY were considered the favorites against a Dallas side that had looked out of energy over the last month of the season. Despite looking tenuous at times, the Bulls won the match 2-0 and move on in the playoffs to face the LA Galaxy.
With striker Luke Rodgers missing the game with an infected knee, coach Hans Backe again went with Dane Richards up top instead of Juan Agudelo, as he did in the 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Union. A listless first half had both teams testing the other, with Dallas starting strong and forcing three saves from goalkeeper Frank Rost. New York gradually found their rhythm and challenged a number of times as the half drew to a close. The Red Bulls got on the board after Mehdi Ballouhcy subbed into the game in the 58th minute, as he quickly found Joel Lindpere in the box and fed the Estonian a low cross. Lindpere easily knocked the pass past Kevin Hartman and maintained his reputation for coming up big in tough situations.
The Red Bulls faced a tough final ten minutes of regulation when defender Jan Gunnar Solli brought down FCD's Daniel Hernandez with an ugly tackle and received a straight red card. But Dallas ran out of energy and was unable to translate the man advantage into a goal. Eight minutes of stoppage time saw Dallas throw as much into their attack as they could, leaving them open to Thierry Henry breaking free on the counter attack and neatly slotting in the second goal in the 97th minute.
With the win, RBNY will face the LA Galaxy in a home-and-away conference semi-final series that begins this Sunday at Red Bull Arena. While LA fell 2-0 in their matchup in early October, a returning Landon Donovan and the possible return of Irish international Robbie Keane may change the complexion of the matchup. Should NY win the series, they would play away against the winner of the Salt Lake and Seattle series to vie for a spot at the MLS Cup.