HARRISON, N.J. -- Here are three quick thoughts after Jermaine Jones' 86th-minute goal gave the New England Revolution a 2-1 win over New York at a raucous Red Bull Arena in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference finals.
1. What a game
The atmosphere was electric inside a sold-out, 25,000-seat venue a full hour before kickoff. Twenty buses filled with almost 1,200 Revs fans made the three-hour drive down Interstate 95, and long-suffering Red Bulls supporters were out in force on a glorious late autumn day for what was surely the biggest home game in their club's 18-year history.
The intensity on the field more than matched the excitement in the stands when the match kicked off. There was no time on the ball for either team. Both goalkeepers made key early stops. Tackles were flying in from all over, to the tune of 14 fouls in the first half alone, four of them vicious enough to draw yellow cards. And the Revs' early high pressure paid off when Teal Bunbury's picture-perfect strike curled its way around New York keeper Luis Robles and settled into the net just 17 minutes into the opening stanza.
The away goal could have taken the air out of the building, but it did the opposite. The home fans willed their team on, mercilessly booing referee Allen Chapman for ignoring any perceived sleight against their side. And the place went bonkers when Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips -- who replays showed was probably offside -- headed the hosts level on a crazy sequence just 10 minutes after they had fallen behind.
The second half provided more of the same, and the home fans stayed loud even after Jones' late backbreaker. It was a thrilling spectacle in every way, one befitting a nationally televised playoff semifinal between longtime rivals in the country's biggest market.
2. The Revs are in complete control
That seems a little unfair after a match as evenly contested as this one was. But the fact is that even if the Red Bulls hadn't lost the match on Jones' late goal, overcoming just one away goal -- the tiebreaker being used for the first time in MLS history during this year's playoffs -- would have been difficult enough in next week's second leg in Foxborough.
Now, because the Revs did get that crucial second, the Red Bulls will likely have to win by at least two at Gillette Stadium, a place that's been an absolute house of horrors for them over the years, to advance to the MLS Cup final. The visitors won't be burdened by history, but it's still a tremendous hill to climb for a team that will be without perhaps its most important player in New England. Which is to say that ...
3. Losing Wright-Phillips is a killer for the Red Bulls
The man known as BWP has been clutch for New York all season, and Sunday was no different. But the caution he picked up an hour into Sunday's match for the silliest of fouls -- stepping in front of Bobby Shuttleworth as the Revs backstop was trying to play the ball out -- was his second of the postseason, meaning the Englishman will miss Saturday's rematch.
That's a major blow to a Red Bulls team that needs offense more than ever following today's result. Wright-Phillips accounted for 27 of New York's 55 goals during the regular season, and four of six in the playoffs. Others will need to step up in what is sure to be a tight match next weekend.
The Red Bulls have no shortage of attacking options: Tim Cahill (who came off the bench in the second half Sunday), Peguy Luyindula, Thierry Henry and Lloyd Sam can all score. With Wright-Phillips out, one or more of them will have to if Mike Petke's team is to pull off what would now be a major upset in Massachusetts. It would have been hard enough with Wright-Phillips on the field.
Without him? Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, it's probably impossible.