D.C. United Steals Victory in a Wild Conference Semifinal with NY Red Bulls


Red Bull Arena looked like a completely different stadium tonight when the rescheduled final leg of D.C. and New York kicked off.  The stakes were even higher as the winner had a chance to host the MLS Cup with San Jose and Sporting KC being bounced last night.  D.C. had a lot of fuel feeling like the odds have been stacked against them despite the public apology from MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

Ben Olsen, the United coach, seemed more eager to get the match started in pre-game interviews while the coach

Oct 20, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Nick DeLeon (18) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew during the first half at RFK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-US PRESSWIRE

of New York, Hans Backe, was happy the match was postponed.  Do you think these coaches like each other?  Their animosity seems part of the rivalry.  The match began after Kenny Cooper discussed something with referee Mark Geiger with the teams level at one.

Lionard Pajoy had a golden opportunity in the 6th minute but a cute back heel did not fool Luis Robles.  D.C. United could have used the suspended Andy Najar, who would have had tons of space on the right side.  His absence could have been a reason that New York had the best first half chances.  A third of the way into the match Bill Hamid made a save on Thierry Henry but failed to punch the rebound leading to a mad scramble with deflections and one last attempt that grazed the outside of the post.  Despite RBNY owning possession, there was no score at halftime.

D.C. United had advanced in the previous three playoff match ups but this one looked like a stalemate.  New York continued to have the better chances.  Henry and Cooper were more active than in the first leg, but D.C. continued to be in the right place to block attempts.  United would draw a free kick when Rafa Marquez led with a fist to the face of Chris Pontius in the air.  The attempt went well over the net.  The match would then go up and down as Dax McCarty was robbed by Hamid followed by Pontius skying a great chance over the net and a scrambling Robles.

Then in the 70th minute action picked up even further.  McCarty played a great ball to get Cooper in one-on-one with Hamid.  The keeper charged and took down Cooper just inside the box getting a red and allowing Cooper to step to the spot.  Joe Willis had to come on for Hamid to face the penalty kick and they were now down to ten men.  Cooper easily scored on the first pk, but his stutter step fooled his team.  Three Red Bulls players were in the area led by Henry.  Encroachment was called and Willis saved the second attempt.

Hamid was not happy and tried to plead his case.  He also took to twitter in the 83rd minute, but Geiger was on point for the whole match.

The teams would be evened up when Marquez performed a late spikes up tackle and was given his second yellow.  What else could happen in this match? How about a 90th minute goal by Nick DeLeon?  Robbie Russell made a great run and Connor Lade was exposed keeping DeLeon onside.  A neat pass from Russell allowed DeLeon to turn in shoot in one motion.

New York subbed in two defenders curiously as they set up for a corner.  They would get a free kick just outside the box in the 93rd minute.  Willis shouted instructions and the lore of this match grew by the seconds.  The fresh substitute Roy Miller took the shot rather than Henry who simply hung his head as the ball sailed over the bar.  An epic two legs would come to an end with D.C. moving on with a sense of redemption and the feeling of a reshuffling for New York.  D.C. travels to Houston for the Conference Finals on Sunday.