HARRISON, N.J. Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere provided the offense as the New York Red Bulls clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on Thursday night at Red Bull Arena.
Richards scored what proved to be the game-winning goal for the Red Bulls (15-9-6, 51 pts.) in the 17th minute, while Lindpere added an insurance strike in second-half stoppage time as the Revolution (9-16-5, 32 pts.) pushed for an equalizer.
While New York will now have home-field advantage on the road to MLS Cup, New Englands season comes to a close without a playoff berth for the first time in nine years.
The loss snapped the Revolutions 14-game (8-0-6) regular-season unbeaten streak against the Red Bulls, which dated back to 2005.
Cory Gibbs and Pat Phelan returned from suspension to boost the Revs, who were able to dress a full game-day roster of 18 players for just the 15th time in 30 regular-season games. Gibbs slotted back into the starting lineup replacing rookie defender Seth Sinovic while Phelan was available off the bench.
Marko Perovic displayed a propensity for shooting from distance throughout his first season with the Revs and that was no different on Thursday night. The Serb tried his luck from all of 40 yards in the ninth minute, forcing Bouna Coundoul into an awkward save as the ball skipped just in front of the Red Bulls goalkeeper.
Despite a bright start from the Revs, it was New York which took the lead in the 17th minute. Juan Pablo Angel expertly turned on a pass in midfield before springing Richards down the right wing, and the Jamaican took the space provided by bursting down the flank. At the top of the box, Richards unleashed a right-footed drive which sailed past Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth into the far upper corner.
Richards was at it again in the 30th minute, almost helping set up a second goal for the hosts. Another charge down the right finished with a square pass into the middle for Salou Ibrahim, who poked his effort just wide of the right post from the top of the box.
Largely pinned back for the remainder of the half, the Revs almost stole a goal in first-half stoppage time when Sainey Nyassi unleashed a tight-angle drive from the right wing. The Gambians knuckling effort was beaten away by Coundoul, however, and the Red Bulls maintained their 1-0 lead into the half.
After making three stops in the first half, Coundoul looked shaky three minutes after the break. The goalkeeper rose uncontested to easily claim Darrius Barnes long throw into the box, but he dropped the ball at his feet and only a late block prevented Ilija Stolica from taking advantage and driving the ball into the net.
The Revs continued to press in search of an equalizer and again came close in the 59th minute. Shalrie Josephs deft touch found Stolica in the right side of the box, but the Serbs driven pass across the face of goal skidded through the box without a decisive touch.
Desperate to find a goal, the Revs switched to an attack-minded 3-5-2 formation in the 80th minute when Phelan replaced defender Emmanuel Osei. Phelan partnered Jason Griffiths in central midfield, with Perovic playing slightly behind the forward pairing of Joseph and second-half substitute Zack Schilawski.
The move almost paid dividends just one minute later when Joseph teed up Perovic at the top of the box, but Perovic skied the effort with his weaker right foot.
As the Revolution committed numbers forward, the visitors were exposed as the Red Bulls grabbed a second goal two minutes into stoppage time. Rookie Tony Tchanis service sent Lindpere streaking down the left wing with time and space. After slowing his run into the left side of the box, Lindpere faked a shot before cutting back and calmly finishing with his right foot.
Tonight was the final game of the 2010 season for the Revolution the team closed the campaign with a 9-16-5 record
With the loss, the Revs slipped to 25-17-11 all-time against New York, including an 8-13-7 mark in away matches.
The loss snapped the Revolutions 14-match, regular-season undefeated streak against New York which dated back to the end of the 2005 season this was the Revs first loss to the club since New York changed its name to the Red Bulls prior to the 2006 season.
Tonights match was the teams 61st meeting in all competitions, marking the Revs greatest total of matches against any MLS opponent in all matches (MLS regular season, MLS playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, SuperLiga, etc.)
This is the sixth time the Revs and Red Bulls have closed the regular season against each other, but the first time since 2003 the previous seasons were 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Thursdays match marked just the 15th time (in 30 regular-season matches) that the Revs were able to dress a full complement of 18 players including tonights game, the Revs missed 184 man-games to injury.
With Pat Phelans substitution into the match in the 80th minute, the Revs moved to a 3-5-2 alignment Phelan partnered with Jason Griffiths in the defensive midfield, pushing Shalrie Joseph up as an attacking central midfielder the backline, left to right, was Chris Tierney, Cory Gibbs and Darrius Barnes.
With 32 goals on the campaign, New England established a new club low for goals in a season it was one lower than the teams 33-goal total in 2009, also in a 30-game schedule.
Kenny Mansally suffered 10 fouls in the match, which tied the clubs record for most fouls suffered in a match he tied Clint Dempseys total from April 2, 2005 at San Jose, when he also suffered 10 fouls
The Revs finished with single-digit wins for the first time since 2004 when the team recorded eight wins.