The New York Red Bulls, for only the third time in club history and the first since 2008, find themselves headed to the Eastern Conference finals thanks to a 2-1 second-leg defeat and 3-2 aggregate victory over D.C. United.
Things looked far from certain for the Red Bulls at halftime, trailing United 1-0 on the day, up only a goal in the two-leg series and without a vital away goal to their name, yet.
United forward went agonizingly close to tying the aggregate score in the 55th minute. The Argentine forward got his head onto a DeLeon cross just six yards from goal and glanced his header inches wide of Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles‘s far post.
The home side was made to regret that missed chance just two minutes later. Thierry Henry, as he has done so often in his prolific MLS career, served up a perfect ball from the left wing into the most dangerous of spots. RBNY forward Peguy Luyindula did just enough at the near post to redirect the ball over the top of DCU goalkeeper Bill Hamid and into the back of the net.
RBNY defender Roy Miller kept things interesting and left the door ever so slightly open for DCU, down 3-1 on aggregate including the series’ only away goal, by getting himself sent off in the 78th minute. Miller, already on a yellow card, left a foot high and exposed near the head of Sean Franklin and earned a straight red for his actions. As a result, Miller will miss both legs of the Eastern Conference finals.
Franklin managed to give DCU the faintest of lifelines with a 91st minute goal to pull his side back to within one on aggregate, but with RBNY’s trump card, the series’s only away goal.
RBNY will host the winner of the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew‘s conference semifinals series (the Revs hold a 4-2 advantage ahead of Sunday’s second leg in Foxboro, Mass.,) at Red Bull Arena on Nov. 23 (time TBD).
DC United: Hamid, Kemp, Birnbaum, Boswell, Franklin, Pontius (Estrada 73′), Kitchen, Arnaud (Johnson 60′), DeLeon, Rolfe (Neal 66′), Espindola
Goals: DeLeon (37′), Franklin (90+1′)
Subs: Willis, Estrada, Inkoom, Johnson, Neal, Martin, Korb
New York Red Bulls: Robles, Eckersley, Olave, Sekagya, Miller, Alexander (Cahill 65′), McCarty, Sam (Armando 90+5′), Luyindula (Oyongo 76′), Henry, Wright-Phillips
Goal: Luyindula (57′)
Subs: Meara, Armando, Duvall, Bover, Lade, Oyongo, Cahill