It's a funny old game isn't it? The first time the Red Bulls had their playoff lives in their hands, they got absolutely slaughtered by Chicago and had to meekly back their way into the playoffs courtesy of DC United's inability to hit anything but woodwork in their season finale. But since giving up five to the Fire, the Bulls have conceded just one goal in their last three matches, depending upon a combination of backup netminder Danny Cepero and an assortment of posts and crossbars to keep their opponents at bay. And despite being largely outplayed and heavily outshot in their two "do-or-die" playoff matches, a lethal counter has provided the necessary goals. Talking points? Sure, I have a few . . .
* Burn the Witch! Seriously. I know we've got all these lovely shots of Osorio doing his Rainman pacing and muttering to himself, scratching furiously at a notepad and looking at turns frantic, elated, harried, and--be honest--a bit mad. But I think the falling to the knees bit is a red herring. Dig into his suitcase, and I'm sure you'll find a little voodoo-doll net with cellophane stretched across the face of it. Or perhaps there are chickens hanging in the locker room and strange hieroglyphics scrawled in blood in the lining of Cepero's and Richards' jerseys. How else to explain this unlikely run? Black magic, I'm afraid.
* Thrust and Counterthrust. For all of RSL's missed opportunities, the Red Bulls had a few of their own, particularly Richards' breakaway as RSL pressed in the second half. In fact, the Bulls' entire gameplan is based around absorbing pressure and then hitting on the quick break. Of course, that strategy is dependent upon the opposition coming at them hard, something that both RSL and Houston attempted to do in these last two matches. I wonder if this strategy will pay off such handsome dividends against the Crew? Sigi's team is well organized and recovers well against the break. Of course, you would have said the same thing about Houston not so long ago . . .
* Taking the Long View. It's funny isn't it? You look at New York's two playoff opponents--Houston and RSL--and you think, "Hey, those are a couple of solid teams that are probably going to be pretty strong again next year." But then you look at New York's roster, held together with toothpicks and bubblegum--a sort of MacGyver-esque golem that somehow manages to keep shambling forward, and you think, "What a wreck, they're going to need some major surgery in the offseason!" Of such magic are Cinderella's born, I suppose.
So the stage is set for an unlikely final. The top side in MLS versus the one that barely managed to squeak under the bar and into the playoffs. All signs would seem to point to the Crew lifting the cup, but it's hard to write the Red Bulls off given the current run they're on. We'll see you all back here in a day or two to engage in a bit of Playoff Prattle. Until then, fire away in the comments! What do you think of the Red Bulls' magical posts? Will the Crew be a bridge too far for Osorio's witchery? Who would you least like to encounter in a dark alley--crazy-beard Eddie Gaven or "Thriller" John Wolyniec?