Photo by ISIphotos.com
Speed kills, as Wade Barrett and the Houston Dynamo found out Sunday at Robertson Stadium. Dane Richards first fired a verbal salvo before the start of the Western Conference Semifinal Series, warning that he was going to "run that left back into the ground," referring to Houston’s Wade Barrett.
The Jamaican winger’s bravado didn’t sit well with the two-time defending MLS Cup champions. But Richards, who played at San Jacinto Junior College in Houston where he earned National Junior College Player of the Year honors in 2004, backed up his words with a stunning performance in the second leg of the series.
"I won’t comment on that because they’re pretty upset about that," Richards said. "But we exploited that so I’m glad we did it."
Richards played a part in all three Red Bulls goals, helping lift New York to its greatest victory in club history and one of the greatest ever upsets in MLS Cup playoffs as the Red Bulls advance to the Western Conference Final against Real Salt Lake 4-1 on aggregate.
"He was great, a threat from the very first minute," Juan Pablo Angel said. "When you have Dane on one of those days, you have to make the most of him…I would take Dane every day when he’s performing like that."
Richards stunned the orange-clad Dynamo fans, when he took a pass from Sinisa Ubiparipovic on the ground, blew past Barrett and into the box, where he rifled an attempt from 12 yards out past Pat Onstad on 25 minutes.
"I know I have an advantage in front of them, so I just kept going," Richards said. "If they touch me, it’s a PK."
Ten minutes later, Richards’ speed again set the Red Bulls’ second goal when he ran free down the right and his cross was handled by Ricardo Clark and referee Baldomero Toldeo pointed to the spot. Angel stepped up and put his penalty kick into the side netting to Onstad’s right to give the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead.
"Credit to Dane," Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. "He played with controlled aggression…I think he’s done a lot better work now. You can see he comes inside and looks for the pass, now his combination play is better and we always know he is a threat in behind. I’m very pleased with his performance today."
Barrett was replaced at halftime by Corey Ashe, as the Dynamo went with a 3-5-2 formation, hoping to generate more offense in a two-goal hole.
"He led us offensively today," Andrew Boyens said. "Every time he got the ball he was a threat. They didn’t know how to deal with him."
But Richards helped clinch the stunning victory when he sliced apart made a remarkable run to the end line, crossing the ball in front to John Wolyniec, who tapped the ball into the empty net in the 81st minute to ensure that there will be a new MLS Cup champion as the two-time defending champs were ousted.
"It’s funny because I think Barrett got in his head a little bit in the first 10 minutes and then I think Dane just took it upon himself to say, ‘This guy’s not going to beat me,’" Wolyniec said. "He got behind hhim a bunch of times early and really made the difference on the first two goals and obviously on the third. He was the key cog in all three goals."
While Richards’ caught heat for his incendiary comments before the series, comments by critics, including former Red Bulls president and general manager Alexi Lalas, served as motivation.
"(The critics) said our season would end today and we needed better players," Richards said. "We proved to ourselves and our fans that we do it for them."