HARRISON, NJ -- One team played like it needed a win, while the other played like, well it didn’t.
The truth be told, the Union also could have used a win or a tie to secure one of the top three spots in the Eastern Conference and avoid the wild card round.
Instead, they will now root against the likes of Kansas City, Columbus and Houston, hoping to secure one of the top spots in the conference.
Either way, the urgency and the game’s lone goal was provided by the New York Red Bulls in Thursday’s 1-0 win over the Union at Red Bull Arena.
New York needed a win or tie to clinch a playoff berth, although the Red Bulls still could have gotten in if other teams in the running lost.
Either way, New York didn’t want to take any chances.
The Red Bulls took it to the Union from the opening tap, scoring on an own goal in the eighth minute and dominating in the first half.
When Union team manager Peter Nowak brought in Danny Mwanga and Freddy Adu at halftime to replace Zach Pfeffer and Amobi Okuogo, the offense got some pep. And Roger Torres, inserted in the 70th minute, brought more life to the offense, but it wasn’t enough.
What was amazing with so much at stake why the Union came out playing on their collective heels. New York was the aggressor from the beginning.
Afterwards team manager Peter Nowak suggested that the coaching staff’s urging for urgency fell on deaf ears.
“Sometimes the message is getting old,” Nowak said. “The team needs to take charge to be in a position to challenge themselves.”
Nobody in the Union’s position wants to have to play in a mid-week wild card game.
The Union and Sporting Kansas City both have 48 points, with Columbus at 47 and Houston at 46.
The other three have one remaining game.
Either way, a more inspired effort may have avoided scoreboard-watching for the Union.
New York obviously deserves a lot of credit.
The Red Bulls played like a team that didn’t want its season to end and didn’t want their fate in hands of other teams.
New York took no chances.
The Union has.
A lot still has to happen for the Union not to finish in the top three, but they will be sweating the results this weekend, hoping that their uneven performance in their final game, won’t force them to play in the wild card round.