After MLS setback, New York Red Bulls look to SCCL

After falling to the Impact de Montreal in the 2016 MLS Cup playoffs, the New York Red Bulls white jersey) won't play a competitive game until next year's Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against the Vancouver Whitecaps. (Photo courtesy of the Impact de Montreal)

HARRISON, New Jersey -- The New York Red Bulls' season ended about a month earlier than they initially envisioned.

After entering the Major League Soccer postseason upbeat and unbeaten in their last 20 games, a 21-year playoff futility continued.

New York exited the competition with a two-game losing streak, eliminated from the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Montreal Impact, 3-1 on aggregate. They dropped the series opener 1-0 on the road and the second leg at home Sunday, 1-2.

“We don’t make plays when it counts,” said team captain Dax McCarty. “I think it’d be pretty harsh to say that we choke, but certainly [that's] not out of the realm of possibility. We usually have pretty good regular seasons, dominant regular seasons and, unfortunately, when the playoffs come around we get it wrong in a lot of different areas."

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who recorded a league-best 20 assists during the regular season, endured a difficult match. He had a penalty kick saved in the 21st minute and was forced to miss 12 minutes due to a severe bloody nose following a clash with Marco Donadel.

“If I score my penalty, it is a very different conversation – then we are back at even," Kljestan remarked. “Those types of plays make differences, so that is why I feel like I let the team down because, in my instance, the game is still there for us.”

Kljestan was well enough, however, to fly to Columbus, Ohio, on Monday to begin training with the United States national team for its World Cup qualifier Friday against visiting Mexico.

The Red Bulls' next competitive games will be in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. They will host the Vancouver Whitecaps on February 22, before traveling for the March 2 away leg.

"We're going to have to get over this and figure out a way because we've got CONCACAF next year," head coach Jesse Marsch concluded. "We're going to have a good team again next year. It's just so hard when you put so much into it for a calendar season and come up empty. It makes it hard to digest at the moment."