Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
HARRISON, N.J.– On a rare evening without Thierry Henry in the starting lineup, the New York Red Bulls put in a performance that was sure to make their coach proud after last Sunday’s debacle.
With two players making their starting debuts for the home side, the Red Bulls defeated rivals D.C. United, 2-1, on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena, despite being reduced to ten men in the second half. The victory gave the Red Bulls the Atlantic Cup title, after losing it last season.
With Henry on the bench to start the match, a move that came after a well-publicized shouting match with Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke at training on Wednesday, the Red Bulls still managed to create chances without their leading scorer. Cahill, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam provided the energy to keep D.C. on its toes for much of the night.
Sam opened the scoring with a chip that may have been a cross attempt, while Cahill provided the eventual game-winning goal with a 38th-minute header that came just two minutes after a Nick DeLeon goal for D.C. United.
The result puts the Red Bulls in the a three-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference, while D.C. United remain in the conference cellar with just 14 points from 26 games played.
Sam, making his first start since June 23, showed off his technical quality early, taking on defender James Riley and sending a deft chip over D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to take the lead in the 8th minute. The Leeds native’s shot deflected off Hamid’s fingertips, the far post, and then Hamid himself before crossing the line.
Following the goal, Ben Olsen’s squad settled into the match. Though the Red Bulls had plenty of possession, they weren’t able to get into the final third, and D.C. United were much more threatening. The visitors were forced to make a change in the 18th minute as Jared Jeffrey went off with what looked to be a right ankle sprain, with John Thorrington entering and making a difference in the quality on the field.
In the 36th minute, D.C. United designated player Dwayne De Rosario sent a long ball towards teammate Nick DeLeon. The second-year midfielder took the ball down with precision control, slid past Red Bulls debutant defender David Carney, and finished with aplomb to tie the match.
Barely two minutes later, Tim Cahill, who took over the captain duties with Henry on the bench, sent a trademark header off a Johnny Steele cross in for a goal to give the hosts the lead once again in the 38th minute.
D.C. United came out the more positive team in the second half, as mid-season acquisition Luis Silva headed a ball off the post, De Rosario forced a Luis Robles save, and DeLeon shot just over the bar in a two minute span.
The Red Bulls crowd rose to their feet in the 58th minute as Henry entered the match for Cahill, who picked up a right ankle injury. Within seconds, Henry was one-on-one with D.C. United defender Daniel Woolard, got past his man, but his shot flashed just wide of goal.
After trading chances in the next ten minutes, the Red Bulls were dealt a blow in the 72nd minute as defender Ibrahim Sekagya was sent off for pulling down De Rosario in the box. Robles however stepped up to keep his side in front, diving to his right to save the Canadian international’s penalty kick before it was cleared away.
D.C. United had opportunities late to equalize, as the Red Bulls had dropped nearly their entire team back to defend the lead. De Rosario had an open header opportunity in the 88th minute but the shot went harmlessly over the bar, while a corner kick in stoppage-time came to naught as Robles clutched the ball.