Three points is sweet, but three points against your hated rivals is even sweeter. After a Wednesday disaster in Los Angeles, D.C. United came home looking to solidify their lead in the Eastern Conference and claim their first Atlantic Cup in over two years against the New York Red Bulls. They accomplished both of these tasks on Sunday as United beat the heat and the Red Bulls by the score of 2-0.
The first half played out very much like the first game this season between these two rivals with United looking dangerous early and the Red Bulls looking strong late. United midfielder Davy Arnaud, much like in the first match, was able to move the ball effortlessly through the Red Bulls defense. United forward Fabian Espindola nearly converted on one of Arnaud’s passes in the third minute as he was able to get past the Red Bull defense. However his shot was saved by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
United would have another opportunity in the 27th minute when Espindola would find Silva in open space. But Silva’s goal-scoring chance was thwarted by a leaping Robles. Robles had three saves in the first-half and helped his back four early on weather the offensive storm by United.
Robles’ spectacular save seemed to galvanize the Red Bulls, who did not make much of an impression early in the match. But the defending Supporters Shield champions came alive midway through the half based on the play of their two designated players, midfielder Tim Cahill and forward Thierry Henry. Cahill and Henry’s ability to find space in even the tightest of spots caused havoc to the United back four leaving space for forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, the MLS leader in goals. In the 31st minute, Henry would deliver a strong cross into the box for Wright-Phillips, whose low header curving header appeared to be heading into the back of the net. But United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a diving save to prevent the sure-fire goal.
The Red Bulls work was not done as both Cahill and Henry would continue to put pressure on Hamid and the United back-line. In the 41st minute, Henry laid a simple pass right at the feet of Cahill. The former Australian skipper then hit a shot that had Hamid beat but would be denied by the goal post.
In the second half, United struck first in the 56th minute when Silva would hit a chip shot over Robles for his eighth goal of the season. The play started on a goal kick by Hamid, who found Espindola in the air for a header that caught the Red Bull defense napping.
After the goal, the Red Bulls began to feel the pressure of dropping three points and thus escalated their efforts on the attacking end. In the 65th minute, Henry found Wright-Phillips in space in the United box. However, his pass was intercepted by Hamid.
Hamid would come up again big in the 83rd minute when Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty found Sam on the outside. Sam, who had been engaging in a battle with United left-back Taylor Kemp for the better part of the match, beat the second-year defender and find midfielder Saer Sene in dangerous territory. Sene’s shot was on target but Hamid would make the kick save. Hamid, who has made it a habit this season of coming through at important moments, made several saves in the dying minutes of the match to preserve United’s advantage.
United would put the game out of reach in injury time when substitute forward Eddie Johnson would get past the Red Bulls back four and hit a shot that would just go over Robles. Johnson, who largely deferred to others on goal-scoring opportunities in the second half, would have his fifth goal of the season.
With the win, United (14-8-6, 46 points) moves four points clear of Sporting Kansas City for first place in the Eastern Conference. Their next match will be on the road in Vancouver as the club will face the Whitecaps on Saturday, September the 6th.
For the Red Bulls (7-8-10, 31 points,) this loss puts a dent into their playoff hopes. They are currently two points behind the Columbus Crew for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Bulls next match will be on Sept. 6 as well as they will host Sporting Kansas City.
D.C. United- Bill Hamid, Taylor Kemp, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, Perry Kitchen, Chris Rolfe, Davy Arnaud, Nick De Leon (Alex Caskey 86’,) Luis Silva (Eddie Johnson 66’,) and Fabian Espindola (Jared Jeffrey 85’.)
Goals- Silva (57’) and Johnson (90+1’)
New York Red Bulls- Luis Robles, Roy Miller, Ibrahim Sekagaya (Saer Sene 80’,) Jamison Olave, Chris Duvall (Eric Alexander 62’,) Ambroise Oyongo, Tim Cahill (Peguy Luyindula 90’,) Dax McCarty, Loyd Sam, Thierry Henry, and Bradley Wright-Phillips.