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Wright-Phillips, Luyindula fire Red Bulls to victory over D.C. United


Photo by Brad Penner/ USA Today Sports


HARRISON, N.J. – Facing the conference’s number one seed on just three days notice, the New York Red Bulls could have been excused for entering Sunday’s clash with D.C. United with a bad case of tired legs.

However, there were no such issues for the Red Bulls, who toppled D.C. United 2-0 Thursday at Red Bull Arena behind goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Peguy Luyindula.

D.C. United set a physical tone early on, but it were the Red Bulls who created a majority of the chances throughout the opening stanza. However, despite having a plethora of opportunities on goal, Sunday’s early efforts looked reminiscent of Thursday’s victory over Sporting KC, where the Red Bulls were fortunate to overcome a slew of wasted opportunities.

“It started off, in the first 10-15 minutes, it was obvious that they were rested and were physically up for it and we looked a little slower than usual,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke. “They put it on us a little, great pressure by them.I think it opened up a little bit and once we were able to find the wings and play a couple of penetrating balls, especially in the second half, we found more success.”

The hosts finally capitalized on one of those opportunities just five minutes before the half through Wright-Phillips, whose finish was his third of the playoffs and 30th of the season.

In a spectacular attacking sequence, the Red Bulls worked the ball down the right hand side through Lloyd Sam, who played a cross into the path of a surging Thierry Henry. The Frenchman corralled the effort before backheeling towards the far post on his second touch. After a dummy from Luyindula, Wright-Phillips pounced on the pass by smashing the ball into the open net to give the hosts the lead heading into halftime.

“I have to expect those things,” Wright-Phillips said of Henry’s pass and Luyindula’s dummy. “When I first came here, (Henry) told me to always expect the ball, and that’s what I do.”

The Red Bulls continued to put D.C United under pressure throughout the second half, while the hosts’ defensive unit severely limited D.C. United’s attacking opportunities. Led by centerbacks Jameson Olave and Ibrahim Sekagya, D.C. United forward Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola struggled to get relevant touches in and around the Red Bulls’ box.

“Olave and Ibra, the whole back four, played great today,” said Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. “We knew that they were going to be direct. They were going to find Espindola and their offense runs through Espindola. They expect him to do something great every single time and if he doesn’t they’re kind of at a standstill.”

“I’m proud of them,” Petke said of his defense. “It was definitely a concern, but they looked pretty energized in the second half. I think they understood that we wanted to keep a clean sheet, but the more goals we put in puts in a better situation.”

The hosts continued to attack patiently and intelligently through a mix of build up play and quick counter attacks. After prodding in and around the D.C. United final third, the Red Bulls finally got their insurance goal in the 73rd through Luyindula.

With his side marooned in the midfield, Luyindula made a darting run through the center of the D.C. United defense, which was spotted by Henry, whose through ball found his French compatriot. While D.C. United’s backline called for offside, Luyindula continued his run on goal before firing between the legs of goalkeeper Bill Hamid to give the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead.

“That ball was perfect,” Luyindula said of Henry’s pass. “I just had to focus on my control and the finish. As you could see, the ball was right on me.”

With a pair of goals in the team’s back pocket, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke took the chance to remove Henry, who finished the contest with pair of assists. Henry’s substitution in the 80th minute gave the Frenchman some will earned rest, as the Red Bulls head to RFK Stadium Saturday for the series’ second leg.

“It’s only 2-0,” said D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. “We’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but it’s certainly doable. We’ll get a chance to get at them a little bit. We know what we have to do now. I do believe in the resiliency of this team and it’s staff, so I have no doubt that we’ll make a little push and make this thing interesting.”

“We’re not there yet, so it’s kind of a mixed feeling,” Henry said. “Obviously you’re happy because you won and we go there with something we can defend. I’ve been in some ties before where everyone thought we were out or going through and it didn’t happen. We need to relax. They have showed us all season they are a good team We took care of business at home and I expect them to try and do the same thing on Saturday.

“It’s always better to go out there with something to defend,” Henry continued, “but we haven’t done anything yet.”

Here are the match highlights:


  1. I had season ticket for the NYRB in ’96. I’ve been a fan ever since, in the bad times and in the bad times (that is not a typo). That was possibly the best second half they have played in a meaningful game. But, this being the NYRB and all, I just feel like they have such a long, long way to go to get past DC in this series. Two quick DC goals (which could happen with Silva back in the lineup) and all bets are off. I love Petke’s balls – benching his DP (Cahill) for a streaky Peguy. Boy did it payoff.

    Henry speaks like he’s the coach – and I like it. His passion is undeniable. Anyone who uses the “DPs come her to retire” cliche just does watch the games objectively. Titi is still a great player and having him help coach and inspire his mates is of unquestioned value to a team that need to LEARN how to win, and win with confidence and win with confidence consistently.

    Let’s hope this is the beginning of such a teal.

    “As long as I’m breathing…”

    Petke for President.

  2. worst game i’ve seen dc play all year. can’t remember how many passes were hit directly at the nyrb player right in front of them. as someone else said, should’ve started franklin and rolfe, or at least subbed rolfe in earlier.

    hope we see those two and silva next game, and that we’re not too far behind to catch up.

    • Rolfe is still far away from match fit, but he needs to start next game and play til he drops. Then we need to pray that Silva is ready.
      Even with the injury issues, can’t believe the team played that bad.

  3. And the decibel level of noise in that stadium would have been enough to put RFK out of its misery. Don’t worry we’ll make sure to bring it with us to DC for the 2nd leg.

    • Rotting? We just won the East. The fact that we lost one game away from home does not make us a rotting team. We’re resurgent, even if we had a bad game. This is a very solid DC team without Rolfe and Silva and Franklin, all of them key starters.

      Stadium is rotting. The team is back from the dead.

    • DC will get a stadium if not under this owner then another. The league is too lucrative, the positives are huge and obvious for everyone to see. All the bad owners will get bought out and better ownership will come in. Its to the point that teams that arent maximizing their potential will simply be bought and moved to a more lucrative city.

      Im a RB fan but im relaxed in the knowledge that playing in that fetid corpse of a stadium will not be a thing forever.

      I am not looking forward to the day the DC fans are 5 feet from the pitch and our players nor am I looking forward to the day their stadium is much better/newer/modern than ours.

  4. DC fan here. The Redbulls executed a smarter game plan than DC, at least that’s how I saw it. DC were trying to high press the CB’s with the two forwards, and it was a waste of energy. Think Benny thought that the Redbulls would keel over with some early pressure, but the idea of suffocating a team for 90 rarely works out- in fact, it makes the other team take their chances with more drive and focus. Meanwhile, nobody for DC was dropping into the space where they could actually hold and generate possession, the middle of the field, and were beaten outright by the Redbulls on the flanks. This was a devastating, but ultimately deserved loss.

    Hopefully Rolfe and Franklin, maybe even Silva can make the next game more exciting. In any case, well executed, Redbulls.

  5. Let’s give a shout out to Mr. Ives. SBI is a website that doesn’t require a login to make a comment. Nor does he require to insert a cookie into your computer. Thanks SBI!

    To the game, as a DCU fan, this didn’t surprise me. Franklin and Rolfe were left off the starting XI. Poor identity without those two guys.

  6. Revolution will win the east, they look good and with their home field advantage they have with the weird turf and cold weather, plus their good team chemistry, should be enough to advance to MLS cup.
    Like I said before, the west is kinda of a mess right now. You can never trust sounders, galaxy are not playing good, rsl is not the same and fc Dallas is a super dark horse.
    So I still gotta go with the fc Dallas vs revolution at patriots stadium in MLS cup or galaxy vs red bull if they both get their head straight and play how their leaders know.

  7. So far the playoffs have been VERY entertaining and even more so when my NYRB are looking hungry. Did you see Henry when he was trotting off to be substituted? He was all fired up! Love the legend that is Titi!!!

    • Depends if Olsen comes up with some crazy adjustments. If I’m a NYRB fan, I’m feeling pretty good about the second leg– looked like they have DCU’s number, even though they did leave the door just a wee bit ajar by not finishing another 1-2 chances.

      Interesting to see if Petke tries to poach an early one in DC and put the tie to bed, or goes with a more conservative approach.

  8. Can somebody explain the scenarios that put RBNY or DCU through? If DC beats RBNY 2-0, games goes to extra time and then possibly a shootout. But if RBNY scores a goal, DC needs to win not 3-1 (since RB would have a more valuable road goal) but 4-1! Is that correct?

    • Exactamundo!! By the way, how great did our midfield look in the 2nd half. (We being NY). Total ownership in the middle of the park!!

    • Conrad,
      That is correct. That is why scoring away goals is so valuable. One could argue that NYRB did just as well to keep DCU out of its own goal as they did to score their second.

      The logic is to give away sides some competitiveincentive to attack, rather than simply bunker and play to win on their home leg.

  9. Luyindula looked to be onside: Henry seemed to time it right to his run. And I’m not sure what was more insane — Henry’s perfect chipped pass or Luyindula’s touch.

    • Both were gorgeous, in different ways. The backheel was more of a improvised quick flick while the looped pass was so impressive as it came literally out of nowhere. Henry is basically just standing in midfield with a player on him and Peguy starts his run, he then plays a perfectly timed ball over the top (and Peguy’s touch was insane too to bring that down one touch). You can almost see the entire DCU backline saying “what just happened?”

      For that, I’d put that pass slightly ahead. But both were worth the price of admission.


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