HARRISON, N.J. – Dane Richards scored a first-half goal and the Red Bulls clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs with a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night.
The Red Bulls (14-8-5) took a one-point lead over Columbus for first place in the Eastern Conference and can do no worse than second, a year after finishing a franchise-worst 5-19-6. They last made the playoffs in 2008.
"This is my first time ever to the playoffs," said Bouna Coundoul, who made 12 saves and recorded his franchise-record 10th shutout of the season. "One goal achieved, another one coming."
The Wizards (9-11-6) were 5-2-3 over their previous 10 games. They remained at 33 points, however, and in danger of missing the playoffs.
"We've got four games left," Wizards coach Peter Vermes said. "I still feel good about it. We can do it. Our guys are (mad). We feel we should have gotten at least a point out of the game."
Dane knocked in his fourth goal of the season in the sixth minute, taking a chip inside the 18-yard box and temporarily losing possession. He regained it, stepped in front of defender Jimmy Conrad and fired a clean shot past goaltender Jimmy Nielsen.
The Red Bulls, second-best in the league behind Los Angeles at 13-0-1 when scoring the first goal, received some outstanding goaltending from Coundoul, who made seven first-half saves and contributed a key sequence in the second half.
"Without Buona today, we were in trouble," said Thierry Henry, who barely touched the ball as the Red Bulls struggled to gain control in the midfield. "We have to make sure we don't make those mistakes again. I don't know why we did that under pressure.
"It was a weird game. But it could also be a sign. We weren't passing well, weren't making good decisions, but we still got three points."
In the 58th minute, Coundoul foiled a clean break-in by midfielder Josh Wolff and then dove at forward Teal Bunbury's foot to smother the rebound far from the empty goal mouth. He made his last save off a direct kick in the final seconds of added time to preserve the win.