Tag Archive | "MLS Playoffs"

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One and done for defending champs

Posted on 06 November 2009 by kali

The defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew saw their season end at the hand of Real Salt Lake tonight after losing the return leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2 at Crew Stadium. The early exit will be a tough one for Crew fans to stomach, as the team successfully defended its Supporters’ Shield title and was heavily favored entering the match-up with RSL, who only sneaked into the playoffs on the final matchday.

Get the Crew match report version here.

ASN’s Kali Korbis posted the RSL version here.

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Playoff soccer, MLS style

Posted on 30 October 2009 by nschiffler

Keller was his usual stellar self for the Sounders

In a match that featured intense physical play, defensive dominance and a near-brawl, the Seattle Sounders drew 0-0 with the Houston Dynamo on Thursday night at Qwest Field. Seattle defender Patrick Ianni, a last-minute replacement in the starting lineup, came closest to scoring by hitting the crossbar, but the home side also needed a few clutch saves by Kasey Keller to salvage the draw.

Check out the photo gallery of the match!

Sounders player ratings included in the match report.

In another unfortunate characteristic of league play, the official missed several key calls, catching the ire of ASN’s Sounders columnist.

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New York posts win for the ages

Posted on 16 November 2008 by ASN Staff

Ubiparipovic chases Will Johnson ©ASN/Julia Fizer

The choice of verb is every bit intentional, as Real Salt Lake hit the post four times but didn’t score Saturday night, allowing the New York Red Bulls to escape with a 1-0 victory and advance to its first MLS Cup in franchise history. To say New York got lucky is an understatement; besides the upright, RSL squandered several clear scoring chances that looked to be certain goals. Virtually the entire second half of the game was played in the Red Bulls’ half of the field, with RSL dominating every aspect of the match. But in the end, it was Dave van den Bergh’s first half tap-in that stood up as the difference in the game. For New York, a victory that is as unlikely as it is appropriate given everything that has happened with the team the last month. But after 13 years of futility (or worse) their fans will take it.

Ten minutes after van den Bergh’s goal, RSL had their encounter with the goalpost. Javier Morales hit a free kick from about 30 yards out that appeared to graze Clint Mathis’ head before hitting the upright.

Red Bulls Danny Cepero had another outstanding effort in goal. In the opening half, he made four saves, including a diving save on Yura Movsisyan’s shot from just inside the left side of the 18-yard box in the 24th minute. In the second half, Cepero made a set of key saves, including a diving save from Robbie Russell in the 56th minute and another in the 65th minute, when he punching out a direct kick.

Mendes and Movsisyan fight for a ball ©ASN/Julia Fizer

The visitors did get two clear chances to put the game to bed in the second half. In the 69th minute Dane Richards (the hero from the Houston match) raced down the right side, but, he put his shot just right of the goal frame.

RSL had another chance to tie the match in the 81st minute when Will Johnson hit the goal frame from in close with a sliding shot. But the ball was cleared out of the box.

As for what awaits…

New York and Columbus met three times in 2008, with New York getting the better of their match-up, winning twice and losing once. The Red Bulls defeated Columbus in the opening match of the 2008 season on April 5, 2-0, on goals by Dave van den Bergh and Kevin Goldthwaite. On September 18 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, a Juan Pablo Angel tally gave New York a 1-0 lead, but the Crew scored the next three goals to post a 3-1 win. In the final meeting of the year, on October 18 at Giants Stadium, Angel scored a pair and Danny Cepero scored the first goal by a goalkeeper in MLS history in a 3-1 win.

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Match Facts

New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake
MLS Cup Playoffs, Western Conference Finals
November 15, 2008 — Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, UT

Scoring Summary:
RBNY– van den Bergh 1, 28th minute

Lineups:
Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave (Andy Williams, 72′), Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman, Dema Kovalenko, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Clint Mathis, Yura Movsisyan.

Substitutes Not Used: Chris Seitz, Tony Beltran, Kenny Deuchar, Fabian Espindola, Robbie Findley, Ian Joy.

New York Red Bulls — Danny Cepero, Carlos Mendes, Chris Leitch, Kevin Goldthwaite, Diego Jimenez, Dane Richards, Luke Sassano (Juan Pietravallo, 83′), Sinisa Ubiparipovic Jorge Rojas, 23′), Dave van den Bergh, John Wolyniec, Juan Pablo Angel.

Substitutes Not Used: Caleb Patterson-Sewell, Andrew Boyens, Macoumba Kandji, Gabriel Cichero, Mike Magee.


Misconduct Summary:

NY — Kevin Goldthwaite (caution; tactical foul) 45th minute
NY — Jorge Rojas (caution; tactical foul) 64th minute

Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee’s Assistants: Chris Strickland, C.J. Morgante
4th official: Ricardo Salazar
Attendance: 20,008 (sellout)
Weather: Clear and 36 degrees

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Can New York do the unthinkable?

Posted on 14 November 2008 by arozsa

Where to begin?

There really isn’t a need to paraphrase Mark Twain when historically relevant cultural phenomena of some sort aren’t being discussed. I mean, we’re already talking about sports, do we really need any extra clichés thrown in?

However, it is worth mentioning that I, along with a healthy portion of other writers in the New York area and beyond, for all intents and purposes wrote an obituary for the New York Red Bulls last week.

Perhaps you’re wondering how well a Red Bull Cola washes down some fresh crow? Well keep on wondering, because last I checked, it wasn’t on the menu. It was no secret that the Red Bulls were the prohibitive underdog going down to Houston. But I cannot recall reading a single piece of copy anywhere, present company included, that didn’t treat this game like anything other than a foregone conclusion. If anyone out there actually predicted that Metro, the perennial whipping boy, the unlovable loser of MLS, would limp into Houston and beat the league’s crown jewel in front 30,000 orange-clad faithful, I would question their mental stability even now, with the result in plain view.

Logic is pulling me in the direction of continued pontification on how bizarre and unlikely this scenario was. Like lamenting the midseason subtractions of USA internationals past and present, or the possibility at bumping into half the starting rearguard while hitting up the GNC store at Jersey Gardens Mall, or how not one, but four of Juan Carlos Osorio’s midseason signings found themselves planted firmly on the bench at game time.

Honestly though, logic has been off its game of late. If it knew what it was doing at all, I certainly wouldn’t be writing a Western Conference Final preview.

So after spoiling the party for Real Salt Lake with a 1-1 draw at the opening of their new stadium back in October, New York finds themselves right back in Utah for an attempt at an encore performance.

As to be expected, the going won’t be easy. Jason Kries, once steward to a side that had lengthy droughts in front of the net, suddenly has a plethora of attacking options available. Spearheading the effort is the suddenly unstoppable frontrunner Yura Movsisyen, whose pace, power and clutch goal scoring surely has Bob Bradley inquiring about his citizenship status. It was Movsisyan who scored the lone goal for RSL in their 2-1 loss at Giants’ Stadium back in September, and he really should have added to his tally on the night as he was repeatedly victimizing the Red Bull’s backline.

Pulling the strings behind Yura is playmaker and one-time MVP candidate Javier Morales, who continues the trend of outstanding Argentine attacking midfielders in MLS. Livewire Canadian Will Johnson has added a dangerous new dimension to this side with his blistering shooting from range. With Robbie Findley, Clint Mathis, Andy Williams and newly healthy Fabian Espindola all in tow, RSL has firepower to spare.

So what does Osorio have up his sleeve? How does he solve a rugged RSL backline, keep Movsisyan under wraps and deny Morales time on the ball? How does he prepare a historically awful road team to take the life out of a crowd and a team that are making their first playoff run in a brand new stadium? Logic would tell you that even Osorio, the master tinkerer himself, would consider the best result in team history and think, “let’s not change a thing.”

We’ve seen how logic works lately, right?

No matter what lineup New York puts out there, and heaven only knows what it will be, as long as Dane Richards and Juan Pablo Angel are part of it, New York will have two distinct advantages that it will look to exploit. Neither Robbie Russell, Ian Joy, or anyone else RSL may trot out at left back has any desire to chase Richards up and down the flank all night, and Jamison Olave is the kind of excitable center-half that Angel will be toying with from the opening whistle.

Will it be enough to push the Red Bulls over the top? Considering their recent inability to deal with Movsisyan, their still woeful away record and their irrational fear of bagpipes, the answer is probably a resounding “no.” But, as the Red Bulls surely know by now, the games get played on the field. Period.

Any reports otherwise are greatly exaggerated.

ASN Prediction:

New York 2, RSL 1 (if New York scores first)
RSL 2, New York 0 (if Real Scores first)

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Richards, Red Bulls shock Houston to advance

Posted on 09 November 2008 by ASN Staff

Dane Richards scored one goal and set up another in a deciding portion of the first half as the New York Red Bulls beat the defending Houston Dynamo to pull off a stunning upset in the first round playoff series. The Red Bulls got a late goal by John Wolyniec to give New York a 3-0 victory and win the series 4-1 on aggregate and advance to play Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference finals.

It is only the second time in franchise history that New York has advanced past the first round of the playoffs, but the first time (in 2000) was not unexpected. Today’s triumph, by contrast, goes down as one of the more shocking upsets not only in the annals of the club but in the history of the entire league. The Red Bulls were stung by late season suspensions to Jeff Parke and Jon Conway for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy that left an already weak defense relying on an untested second-year goalkeeper. Given a last chance to capture a playoff spot by their own hand, the team turned in perhaps its worst performance of the entire season, losing 5-2 at Chicago. After that loss, several pundits (ASN included) began questioning if head coach Juan Carlos Osorio should resign. When the Red Bulls finally made the playoffs after arch rival DC United lost to Columbus on the final day of the regular season, it did so as the lowest-ranked team and in the Western Conference bracket. Many fans hoped for a quick end against the two-time defending champions. Now, with the two lowest seeded teams facing off in the Western Conference final, New York suddenly has a very real chance of advancing to the MLS Cup for the first time in its history. The Red Bulls have already played at Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium once (they tied, 1-1) and hold the edge over RSL in the season series.

There are obviously no calls for Osorio to resign now. The Colombian, in his first year as Red Bulls head coach, took a massive gamble in the playoff series when he benched the team’s three midseason acquisitions in favor of untested rookies and second year players. The move worked. Even though the Red Bulls gave up a late equalizer in the first leg of the Houston series, the young players–particularly Luke Sassano, who held Houston dangerman Dwayne DeRosario in check–were effective. As a result, Osorio went with the same lineup in the return leg at Robertson stadium.

“When it comes down to playing against Houston, to have a good chance you have to have a team spirit,” said Osorio in justifying his decision. “I think we did that last week, and I was pleased with all the guys that started, so that’s why I gave them a second chance this time around.”

Today, it was Dane Richards who stole the show, turning in what was in all likelihood his best individual performance since he as drafted out of Clemson University in 2007. Richards gave the visitors a 1-0 lead on 25 minutes when Sinisa Ubiparipovic found him on a through ball. Richards blew past Wade Barrett and into the box, where he rifled an attempt from 12 yards out past Pat Onstad.

“A lot had been said about the rivalry between him and the fullback (Wade) Barrett, but I think at the end, Dane got the better of the two with his pace,” said Osorio.

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 Toledo 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.

Richards helped clinch the stunning victory when he made a remarkable run to the end line, crossing the ball in front to Wolyniec, who tapped the ball into the empty net in the 81st minute to ensure that there will be a new MLS Cup champion.

Match Facts

New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo
2008 MLS Playoffs, Western Conference semifinals, second leg
November 9, 2008 — Robertson Stadium

Scoring Summary:
NY– Dane Richards 1 (Sinisa Ubiparipovic) 25
NY — Juan Pablo Angel 2 (Penalty Kick) 36
NY — John Wolyniec 1 (Richards), 80

Lineups:

Houston Dynamo — Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney, Bobby Boswell, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett (Corey Ashe, 45), Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Brad Davis, Kei Kamara (Nate Jaqua, 53′), Brian Ching.

Substitutes Not Used: Tony Caig, Patrick Ianni, Craig Waibel, Geoff Cameron, Stuart Holden,

New York Red Bulls — Danny Cepero, Andrew Boyens, Chris Leitch, Kevin Goldthwaite, Diego Jimenez, Dane Richards (Macoumba Kandji, 84), Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Dave van den Bergh (Carlos Mendes, 87), John Wolyniec, Juan Pablo Angel.

Substitutes Not Used: Caleb Patterson-Sewell, Gabriel Cichero, Juan Pietravallo, Jorge Rojas, Mike Magee.

Misconduct Summary:
NY — Dave van den Bergh (caution; tactical foul) 5
NY — Kevin Goldthwaite (caution; tactical foul) 28
NY — Luke Sassano (caution; tactical foul) 47+
Hou — Eddie Robinson (caution; ) 62
Hou — Brian Mullan (caution; ) 73

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: Joe Fletcher, Sean Hurd
4th official: Alex Prus
Time of game: 1:
Attendance: 30,053
Weather: Sunny and 74 degrees

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Red Bulls fall five minutes short of upset

Posted on 01 November 2008 by ASN Staff

A makeshift New York Red Bulls starting lineup that did not include its biggest mid-season acquisitions almost pulled off a massive upset of defending MLS champion Houston Dynamo at Giants Stadium Saturday afternoon.

But after trailing for nearly the entire second half, Kei Kamara scored the 1-1 equalizer for Houston in the 85th minute off a pass from Stuart Holden. Ironically, both Holden and Kamara were late substitutions by Houston head coach Greg Kinnear. Juan Pablo Angel put the Red Bulls up in the 48th minute on a pass from John Wolyniec–another surprise starter for New York.

Luke Sassano, one of several surprise starters

After a lackluster (to put it mildly) showing in the team’s season finale at Chicago, New York head coach Juan Carlos Osorio went with a starting 11 that included two rookies (Diego Jimenez, Luke Sassano) and three second-year players (Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Andrew Boyens, Danny Cepero) who had never started a playoff game. The move nearly worked, as Red Bull played their best game in at least a month, though New York fans will likely be second-guessing Osorio for only using one substitution (Juan Pietravallo, who replaced Ubiparipovic around minute 80).

“I think we probably did just enough to win the game today,” said Osorio in the postgame press conference. “Very proud of the boys today. In the end I think there more positives than negatives from this game.”

Asked about the surprising starting lineup, Osorio said it was largely due to individual player performance in the Chicago game. “There were players not doing their jobs and I though that was undisciplined so I took them out of the starting line. Simple as that.” Though he did not mention Gabriel Cichero or Juan Pietravallo by name, Osorio praised the players he chose to replace them in the starting lineup. “I’m very pleased today with Luke Sassano’s job and Sinisa’s job,” he said.

Sassano said he found out early in the week about his start and was tasked mainly with holding the midfield and limiting Dwayne DeRosario’s chances. “Obviously a very good player,” Sassano said of the Canadian international. “I just tried to stay with him and make sure I could eliminate as many touches as he gets on the ball…knock him around a little bit.”

A tightly-contested and dirty first half at first brought to mind the scoreless Thursday night snooze fest between New England and Chicago. But the game came alive after a vicious foul by Nate Jaqua on Andrew Boyens. The foul, which went unpunished by referee Kevin Stott, led to a brief scuffle at midfield as players pushed and shoved at each other. Boyens lay motionless on the turf for several minutes but did not need to leave the game.

The New Zealander did not appear to have any hard feelings after the game. “I don’t think he was meaning to do anything,” Boyens said of Jaqua’s play. “When there’s something that tough there’s always a little bit of talk afterwards.”

For now the Red Bulls can take comfort in their solid performance before the teams meet again at Houston’s Robertson Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 9. “Nobody gave anything for our chances after the Chicago performance and I think we bounced back,” said Dave van den Bergh. “I thought there was a team out there that fought for every ball and fought for each other and I think that was the biggest difference.”

Osorio agreed. “If we keep this team spirit and we take this competitiveness to their place then we have a chance,” he said.

Match Facts

Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls
2008 MLS Playoffs, First Round, first leg
November 01, 2008 — Giants Stadium

Scoring Summary:
NY — Juan Pablo Angel 1 (John Wolyniec 1) 48
HOU — Kei Kamara 1 (Stuart Holden 1) 85

Houston Dynamo — Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney, Bobby Boswell, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Brian Mullan (Stuart Holden 71), Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario (Geoff Cameron 83), Brad Davis, Nate Jaqua (Kei Kamara 66), Brian Ching.

Substitutes Not Used: Corey Ashe, Tony Caig, Patrick Ianni, Craig Waibel

New York Red Bulls — Danny Cepero, Andrew Boyens, Chris Leitch, Kevin Goldthwaite, Diego Jimenez, Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Juan Pietravallo 77), Dave van den Bergh, John Wolyniec, Juan Pablo Angel.
Substitutes Not Used: Terry Boss, Gabriel Cichero, Macoumba Kandji, Gordon Kljestan, Jorge Rojas, David Roth

Misconduct Summary:
NY — Dane Richards (caution; Reckless Foul) 29
HOU — Brian Mullan (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 29
NY — Juan Pablo Angel (caution; Reckless Foul) 37

Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee’s Assistants: Thomas Supple; Rob Fereday
4th official: Michael Kennedy
Time of game: 1:50
Attendance: 11,578
Weather: Cloudy -and- 63 degrees

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The Red Bulls' playoff campaign: DOA?

Posted on 29 October 2008 by arozsa

The team before its last regular season home game

If you asked me a question about the New York Red Bulls hopes for the playoffs last Thursday night, how would I have responded? Perhaps an old friend of mine could sum it up for me.

The Red Bulls went 2-5-1 in their last eight games, giving up 18 goals in the process. Their starting goalkeeper, in fact the only goalkeeper on the roster with any MLS experience at all, is suspended until sometime around Memorial Day, 2009. Jeff Parke, oftentimes the only effective defender on this squad, joins him on his sojourn to the methadone clinic.

Jozy Altidore left for Spain midseason. Claudio Reyna is gone as well, and if he was checking his iphone for scores after checking his bank balance he would have noted his former club getting stomped by Chicago (again) in a nationally televised game.

Playoffs? Are you kidding me?

Indeed, thanks to the magic of rule tinkering, the Red Bulls and their 39 points take the place of the Colorado Rapids the Western Conference Playoffs, and get to extend their season with a home and home series against the MLS cup holders Houston Dynamo. Put the Red Bulls’ current form against the Texans 9-game unbeaten streak, and a first round exit seems nearly certain. That would leave New York with a nearly identical season to the one that got Bruce Arena canned.

If, at this point, you’d like to have a discussion on whether or not Bruce Arena got fired for unacceptable results, or because he was an arrogant jerk, by all means do so. Talk amongst yourselves. While you’re at it why not debate if Juan Carlos Osorio should suffer the same fate?

But before I get too carried away with my season obituary, it should be pointed out the Red Bulls have yet to actually be put out of their misery. Yes, the odds are stacked against them, but one only need look back to August 24th to find a 3-0 home trouncing of the defending champs. Dane Richards and Juan Pablo Angel, players Osorio actually still has at his disposal if he cares to use them, both found the back of the net as the Red Bulls jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it. Add Macoumba Kandji and the in-form Dave van den Bergh to the mix, and New York has the capacity to score some goals and make things interesting.

Obviously, the other end of the field is a different story. Danny Cepreo has only played a couple more games than I have in an MLS net. The backline issues are clear, especially when you consider that Toronto FC castoff Andrew Boyens has actually been the best defensive addition this season. Juan Pietravallo, who has been flying into tackles about as late as I’ve been showing up to the office lately, has inexplicably displaced Seth Stammler as the backline shield.

So is there really hope? As an adopted New Yorker, I’ve come to embrace the rather caustic approach to the sports teams of the area. Rest assured, now that they’ve seemingly lost the plot entirely, they will begin to play well again. But only long enough to make sure that it hurts a little bit more when they let you down.

ASN PREDICTION

The Red Bulls come out with some offensive punch, but defensive lapses kill the momentum. 2-2 in their home leg. Houston predictably dominates in Texas, finishes off the series with a 3-0 win.

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Red Bulls hit Chi-town with playoffs on the line

Posted on 21 October 2008 by ASN Staff

Win and they’re in, but one solitary point from Thursday night’s game in Chicago will likely suffice to get the New York Red Bulls to the postseason dance. With a tie to the Fire, Juan Carlos Osorio’s team will make the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference if the Kansas City Wizards lose their game in New England Saturday and DC United does not defeat the Columbus Crew by at least four goals in Sunday’s game. The point will be enough for New York to qualify as the fourth seed in the Western Conference even if Kansas City wins or ties–as long as DC does not win by at least four goals Sunday.

This complex arrangement is a result of Major League Soccer’s tie breaker hierarchy. The first tie breaker, head-to-head competition, gives Kansas City the edge over Red Bull (the Wizards tied New York on May 1 and defeated them 1-0 on July 10) thereby determining that Kansas City wins out if the teams are tied on points–as is currently the case and as will be the case if the teams get the same result from their final round games.

The head-to-head competition is a push between New York and its archrival DC United (DC beat New York 4-1 on June 14, a favor the Red Bulls returned on Aug. 10. The teams tied their final encounter 0-0 on Aug. 30) thus making goal difference the determining factor. Here New York is -3 (40 goals scored, 43 against) while DC is -7 (43-50), so if Red Bull ties Thursday, DC can leapfrog them by winning by four goals. That is, unless Thursday night’s game somehow ends 7-7 (a virtual uncertainty. Then again this is Metro we’re talking about) in which case DC will finish with fewer goals scored (the final tie-breaker). Of course if DC wins by more than four goals and New York ties, DC ends up with the better goal differential and advances.

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, Juan Carlos Osorio will have access to a full roster at his disposal Thursday (not including the suspended Jon Conway and Jeff Parke, of course). Jorge Rojas, Gabriel Cichero and Dane Richards are all available to start for the first time in three games. The trio missed the Red Bulls’ 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake last Thursday due to international duty and started Saturday’s game against the Crew on the bench. Richards and Rojas both came into the match as substitutes. Midfielder Juan Pietravallo will return after he serving a one-game suspension for a red card earned in the RSL match. The Argentine has played in 12 games, starting in 11, and has one assist this season.

The good news is there is no chance the team will have to face the New England Revolution in the first round of the playoffs. The Revs ended the Red Bulls season two of the last three years and New York has not defeated its I-95 rival since 2005. In fact, the ‘Bulls measure up well against both possible first round opponent, the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo, having won two of three games against the Crew and split the two games with the Dynamo (but winning the home leg against the defending champs 3-0 on Aug. 24).

Then again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Red Bulls fans and others: what do you expect for Thursday’s match? Will the team clinch a spot in the playoffs?

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