Goalkeeper Carlos Coronel’s reaction after the goal says it all. (Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

For a franchise that has defined MLS Cup Playoff futility since the league’s inception, Saturday’s elimination loss to the Philadelphia Union had to hurt just a little more for the Red Bulls than some of the others.

The seventh-seeded side battled the second-place Union toe-to-toe for some 123 minutes before Jakob Glesnes scored the dramatic game-winning goal to register a 1-0 win in the Eastern Conference first round at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa.

“Very painful,” head coach Gerhard Struber said.

“Everyone left everything on the field and this is in the end … very, very painful,” he continued. “But I am more proud of my boys at the moment. I know this is a very disappointing moment when you go out of the playoffs. But I can say to every single player heads up. I think sometimes when you lose it’s hard. But the way how we lose, I must say I can live very good with that. This showed me my players have a mindset like winners. We are ready to go out of our comfort zone.”

Sean Davis called it “heartbreaking.”

“It was always going to take something special to beat us,” the Red Bulls captain said. “I think we saw that with his finish. And yes, it’s heartbreaking. It hurts right now. I mean, the boys just left absolutely everything on the pitch. I’m so proud. There’s so many guys that never experienced playoffs here before and to see some of those performances. I thought that we gave them a run for their money.”

Both teams certainly had a few chances in a game that turned into a rather ugly affair.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty game, but I thought we had our opportunities and they had theirs,” Davis said. “We hung in there I thought we deserved to at least go to penalties. But … it’s a game of fine margins. They hit a beautiful, strike. There’s nothing, not much more we could have done that there. So it hurts right now. Enough time will pass, and we’ll be able to reflect clearly on on this on the year.”

Actually, Struber reflected on the season immediately after the final whistle and even looked ahead to the future.

He has been stung by two consecutive playoff defeats. After joining the team late last season and being forced to quarantine until he was allowed on the bench for the first postseason match, Struber watched the Red Bulls lose to the eventual champion Columbus Crew SC.

It remains to be seen whether the Union will dance around Subaru Park or another stadium with the Philip K. Anschutz trophy this year, but Struber was comforted by the fact how well his team played down the stretch.

“I’m excited [about] the future with this team,” he said. “I think we made a big step in the season and then right now we are on the level to manage games against the teams like Philadelphia, of course a team and everyone knows that is on the highest level.”

Struber indicated that he planned to bring back most of the team, although he added that the team expected to hit the transfer window.

“We have many to do in the transfer [window],” he said, adding that his “big goal that we can hold every player in my group.”

“Also, in the regular season, a team they are from the first game until the last game, a winning team. I think the [2021] season showed us we are not always a winning team. We have a big rollercoaster [ride] over the whole season. And I think we start right now on a completely different level in the next season.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.