HARRISON, N.J. — The Revolution’s two late goals should have put them in playoff position. Instead, an even later goal by the Red Bulls actually gave the home team a spot.
Tim Cahill’s header on the final play of the game gave the Red Bulls (15-9-8, 53 points) a 2-2 tie and clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs in front of the sold-out crowd in Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
For the Revolution (11-11-9, 42 points), the draw kept them in seventh place, two spots and 3 points behind fifth-place Philadelphia with three games left in the regular season.
New England looked poised to grab a vital road win for the first time since 2007 despite going down a goal in the first half and having a player sent off in the second half.
But Revolution coach Jay Heaps was left asking questions after Cahill headed home the tying goal off a Jonathan Steele free kick after referee Fortis Bazakos removed defender Andrew Farrell from the field before Steele took the free kick because of a scrape above his right eye.
Heaps claimed the scrape wasn’t bleeding and that Farrell should have been left on the field to defend the free kick.
“I can live with the calls of the game,” Heaps said. “I can’t live with [the referee] taking our guys off the field on the last play of the game. Go back and look, show me tape on when in the world, when you’ve already got a red card, you take another guy off. It’s impossible.”
New England was able to tie the game in the 84th minute thanks to Bazakos’s first controversial call when he awarded a penalty for a handball by Jamison Olave, who appeared to chest the ball down. Lee Nguyen stepped up and beat goalkeeper Luis Robles to even the score.
“It wasn’t a penalty kick,” Olave said. “I even asked the referee and all he kept on saying was, ‘Sorry.’ ”
New York’s fortunes seemed to change after the goal, though, when the Revolution’s Andy Dorman was shown a straight red card for a sliding tackle in the 86th minute.
Still, New England kept fighting despite being a man down. Its hard work paid off in stoppage time when Diego Fagundez beat Robles one-on-one after getting behind the New York defense.
The Red Bulls didn’t pack it in after the goal. Instead, New York pressed and used the man advantage to create more than one opportunity to grab a goal. And everything eventually lined up on the final play with a free kick near the corner flag.
‘‘I tried to push it nicely so I didn’t hit it too hard,’’ Cahill said. “I wanted to have it sit nicely because I knew the keeper came out. I wanted to have a nice float in and be safe.
“I feel like it was definitely deserved.’’
New York controlled much of the game and got in front when forward Fabian Espindola scored in the 14th minute.
While New York clinched a playoff spot, the Revolution are looking ahead to another tough road game next week in Montreal.
The team knows it will need to bring the kind of intensity it had in the second half of Saturday’s game if it wants to keep hopes of a first playoff appearance since 2009 alive.
“We got a point now and we have to go to Montreal and take the 3 [points],” Fagundez said. “We can’t come home with nothing less than 3.”