HARRISON, N.J. - A few moments before Red Bulls captain Juan Pablo Angel struck what would be the game-winning goal in the final seconds Red Bulls' 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo here on Wednesday night, fellow forward and ten-year MLS veteran John Wolyniec looked around to his teammates on the Bulls' bench and said, "It's now or never."
It was "now or never" for Angel, who had blown two great goal-scoring opportunities from point-blank range earlier in the game.
It was also "now or never" for the Red Bulls, who needed a win to snap out of a month-long funk and put the breaks on a four-game skid.
So when Angel's free-kick from 30-yards out - courtesy of an Eddie Robinson foul - hit the inside of the right post and found the back of the net, the captain and his team were celebrating more than just a win in game No. 11 of a 30-game season.
They were celebrating a heart-stopping victory that may have pumped new life into their 2010 campaign.
The Red Bulls (6-5-0) now have more victories that last season's seven-month disaster, when they finished 5-19-6.
"This is a different team, with a different confidence," Wolyniec said after the Red Bulls (18 points) took over sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference, moving past idle Toronto (15 points).
Angel drew the ire of the crowd in the 35th minute when he broke in all alone on Houston goalie Pat Onstad thanks to a fantastic feed from midfielder Seth Stammler.
Angel gave a few hesitation touches to draw Onstad from the net. The Dynamo keeper ended up on his knees just inside the box, leaving a wide swath of the goal wide-open for Angel. But the Bulls forward flicked the ball just two feet off the ground and Onstad was able to get a hand on it to punch it away.
Onstand then stopped Angel again on a great chance in the 57th minute.
"He's a very sharp finisher, so normally he scores," Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said of Angel, who leads the team with six goals.
Things went back to normal for Angel in the 94th minute, when he stepped up to take the free kick from 30 yards out with what had to be just seconds left in extra time.
"I think everyone could feel, when I stepped up to take the free kick, that there was so much energy in the arena, that this was the very last chance," he said.
Indeed, it was now or never for Angel, and he nailed it.