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New York Red Bulls Squander Lead, Finish 2-2 with DC United

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Coming into Sunday afternoon’s match, the New York Red Bulls had the opportunity to take top spot in the Eastern Conference. Standing in New York’s way was the team’s long standing rival, DC United, who had frustrated them on the road last month. The Red Bulls had in their favor a home field advantage, which had become a fortress over the season, and a place where DC had been shut out in their last six matches. All went as expected for almost 90 minutes for the Red Bulls, but a feeling usually associated with away days came to Red Bull Arena, as DC mounted a late comeback, clinching the equalizer with just seconds remaining on the clock.

The Red Bulls, missing Mike Grella and Alex Muyl through suspension, had to make major adjustments to their lineup. In went Daniel Royer, who was making his first start for the team, and Designated Player Gonzalo Verón. Meanwhile, captain Dax McCarty, who featured last week after a weeks’ long injury absence, was not involved in the match after missing Friday’s training session. Returning from international duty was Sacha Kljestan, fresh off a productive spell with the US national team. Returning to Red Bull Arena for the first time since his trade in early July was Lloyd Sam, now a regular for DC.

The beginning of the match saw both sides create opportunities, but featured little rhythm from either side. The Red Bulls were forced into making an early sub five minutes in after Damien Perrinelle entered the match for Ronald Zubar, who was having hamstring troubles. The Red Bulls dominated early on, but DC managed to test New York’s defense. A counterattack led by Sam 15 minutes in forced Luis Robles into making a save, while a DC freekick seven minutes later was stopped by Sean Davis.

Finally, a breakthrough came with ten minutes to spare in the first half. Kljestan, the league’s leading assister, sent the ball to the goal line, where DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid was greeted by a host of players from both teams. After a scramble, it was Verón who met the ball and sent it into the back of the net. The Red Bulls almost went 2-0 up at the stroke of halftime, after Kljestan found space in front of goal, but his shot hit the post.

The Red Bulls picked up from where they left off in the second half, as Royer became a threatening presence on the wing. After darting up and down the field on multiple occasions, a run from the Austrian finally resulted in a goal, which Bradley Wright-Phillips scored. Wright-Phillips received the ball and made easy work of scoring, despite being in a wide position.

New York challenged for a third goal, as Wright-Phillips almost got a second just minutes after scoring, but Hamid made the save. The match was seemingly done and dusted when DC and New York players found themselves near Robles. The ball landed Steve Birnbaum’s way, and he got one on the board for DC in the final minute of regulation. Another mess in the penalty area in stoppage time landed at the feet of Lamar Neagle, who ensured a point for both teams.

DC United head coach Ben Olsen spoke highly of the home team’s performance. “They could have scored two or three in the second half,” Olsen said after remarking that it was a good result for his team “on a day we weren’t that good.”

Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was just as complimentary of his team’s performance, saying that they often had the game under control. Marsch spoke about the disorganization in the penalty area that led to DC’s goals, saying “at home, we’ve always managed to handle those.” Overall, though, Marsch had little to complain about. “I’m not being positive for the sake of being positive,” he said before adding that “we’re going to keep pushing for those top two seeds” in the Eastern Conference.

New York next hosts Alianza FC in CONCACAF Champions League action on Thursday, September 15 before resuming league play at Toronto FC on Sunday, September 18.

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Pardeep is the New York Red Bulls Beat Writer for while also covering other soccer teams and events.
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