D.C. United 1, Red Bulls 1: A look back

D.C. United 1, Red Bulls 1: A look back

MLS- New York Red Bulls

D.C. United 1, Red Bulls 1: A look back

The Red Bulls escaped RFK Stadium with a draw, and head to Red Bull Arena in prime position to advance to the Eastern Conference final. That’s assuming they can play well at home, which they have done for the most part all season.

For D.C. United, Saturday will feel like a wasted opportunity to grab the series by the neck. They created chances, put some good sequences together, but never could beat Luis Robles. Chris Pontius’ penalty was costly, but that was far from the only wasted chance. They had plenty of possession, but never could be sharp in the final third, and let the Red Bulls off the hook.

Here is a rundown of some observations from Saturday night’s 1-1 draw.

Hans Backe started Sebastien LeToux ahead of Kenny Cooper to give the Red Bulls front line some speed to trouble the D.C. United defense. The only problem is LeToux was largely invisible for much of the night. He just didn’t get involved.

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Thierry Henry has just two goals this year vs. playoff teams, and tonight he never looked close to threatening the D.C. goal. He feasted on weak teams all season. If he doesn’t deliver a gem on Wednesday there should be serious questions raised about whether he can raise his game against the league’s best.

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Bill Hamid got bumped on the fluky own goal. Referee Jair Marrufo didn’t see it, neither did the fourth official. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t a foul. That said, Hamid needs to punch that ball away. If he punches, it’s a non-issue.

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Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa put in a lot of work to control the middle of the field. Tim Cahill and Teemu Tainio were neutralized. Cahill might have been hampered by calf injury that was bothering him earlier in the week, but New York needs more from him on Wednesday if they’re going to win.

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Chris Pontius abused Connor Lade in the first half, but ultimately never did turn that advantage into a goal. He did draw a penalty (which was missed), but by the second half Lade had settled down and played much better. Credit to the rookie for keeping it together after what was a thoroughly shocking first half.

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Roy Miller is a bad playoff soccer player. For three straight years now he has managed to make a shockingly bad play that has cost his team dearly. You can argue that Hans Backe had no choice because of Rafa Marquez’s injury, and because of Brandon Barklage’s injury, but whether it’s playing Tyler Ruthven or Stephen Keel, or pulling Wilman Conde out of hiding/exile/seclusion, Hans Backe CANNOT afford to play Miller again. Maybe if the Red Bulls have a 4-0 lead on Wednesday. MAYBE then.

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After the match, Rafa Marquez spoke to assembled media and stated that he had an injury. This didn’t really jibe with the observations made by many at halftime, that he got into a verbal confrontation with Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. If Backe pulled Marquez because of that altercation, nobody on the Red Bulls was copping to it. Let’s just say Marquez didn’t exactly sound believable, but that’s the story the team, and Marquez, is sticking with.

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D.C. United needs to attack the Red Bulls central defense with speed. While having Chris Pontius abuse Connor Lade is fun to watch for D.C., having him abuse New York’s centerbacks would be much more effective.

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Andy Najar just lost it. He’s young, and he’ll learn, but he really cost his team dearly. His overlapping presence and speed on the flank is key to what D.C. United does. Without it, Ben Olsen will have to turn to the playoff experienced, but not nearly as dangerous Robbie Russell.

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Luis Robles played very well. Not just on his clutch saves, but on his positioning and handling the ball throughout the match. He had a very clean game, showing solid poise. He looks capable of helping carry a defense that is vulnerable.

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Credit to Joel Lindpere for stepping up his game in the second half. In the first half and early second half he looked stiff, but as the second half rolled on he started to show more purpose. If he starts contributing more, the Red Bulls attack will find more options.

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Ben Olsen might want to reconsider the 4-5-1 formation with Lionard Pajoy as the target striker. Pajoy isn’t very good. D.C. needs to either play Pontius as a forward, or give Lewis Neal or Hamdi Salihi the start up top. Giving the Red Bulls centerback pairing of Markus Holgersson and Rafa Marquez the simple task of dealing with Pajoy is letting them off the hook. Nobody has really tested that tandem with pace yet. Olsen needs to do that if D.C. is going to win at Red Bull Arena.

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What did you think of the match? Agree or disagree with the observations?

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