Top Stories

Red Bulls hold off feisty D.C. United to return to East finals

photo by Danny Wild/USA Today Sports
photo by Danny Wild/USA Today Sports

HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls did not need a victory on Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, but they picked one up anyway.

Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a goal at the death, and the Red Bulls used a second consecutive 1-0 win over D.C. United to advance via a 2-0 aggregate score. D.C. United kept the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals series close with a defensive approach at Red Bull Arena, but struggled to come up with quality chances before Wright-Phillips put the nail in the coffin with a stoppage-time strike.

Wright-Phillips netted off a feed from substitute winger Gonzalo Veron, pretending to take a touch on the ball to round D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid before slotting it into the open net.

The Red Bulls are now headed back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, and will play the winner of the Columbus Crew-Montreal Impact series.

D.C. United, which needed to find a goal to stay alive in the playoffs, rarely looked dangerous in the attack. Content to settle for a steady diet of long balls and counterattacks, Ben Olsen’s side registered its first shot on goal in the series in the 56th minute on a tame effort from Fabian Espindola.

Espindola provided D.C. United’s best chance to pull level in the match in the 35th minute. forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles into a tough save. The veteran forward raced onto a Hamid punt in transition and unleashed a venomous attempt that Robles pushed just wide for a corner kick.

The Red Bulls also nearly found a goal in the first half, as a well drawn-up set piece resulted in a shot off the post in the second minute. The play saw a corner kick from the right played low to Sal Zizzo, who acted like he would shoot before letting the ball roll by to Mike Grella for the blast that was denied by the woodwork.

Sacha Kljestan had a good look for Jesse Marsch’s club at the half-hour mark, sending a sizzling low effort from 19 yards a foot past Hamid’s left post.

A turnover from Red Bulls centerback Matt Miazga in the the 42nd minute gave D.C. United another opportunity to pull even in the series, but Chris Rolfe volleyed well wide following a cross from Espindola.

Ronald Zubar had the first look in the second half when he got on the end of a 53rd-minute free kick from Kljestan, but smacked it well off the mark.

The Red Bulls came inches of finding the breakthrough 10 minutes later. Kljestan received a pass on the left side of the penalty area, and hit a looping shot that Hamid pawed over the crossbar.

With only minutes remaining and its season on the line, D.C. United began to push numbers forward. That nearly allowed Wright-Phillips to score in the 90th minute when he raced in on a breakaway before hitting a low shot that Hamid got down to parry.

Wright-Phillips would not miss on his next chance, rounding Hamid and slotting the ball into the back of the net to send the sold-out Red Bull Arena crowd into a frenzy.

The Red Bulls will now take on the Impact or Crew in a two-legged series. The first match will see the Red Bulls play on the road on Nov. 22 before returning home for the decisive affair seven days later.


  1. Neither game was as close as the scoreline suggested. RBNY had 65% possession over the two games and I don’t think Robles had to make a difficult save. DC are a good matchup for RBNY. They are most vulnerable to speed on the counterattack and DC just doesn’t have that kind of threat. Look at Chicago – with Accam and Co. they beat RBNY and took a 2-0 lead in the game at RBA, even though they were the worst team in the league. Columbus will certainly be a bigger challenge and RBNY will need to be at their sharpest in those games.

    • True enough. RBNY will need to finish their chances much better against a team that can actually score goals, and will try to do so. But Columbus conceded 53 goals this season (10 more than RBNY), and RBNY won two of three against them, including a split in Columbus. I don’t see any 1-0 games in this series.

  2. Bobby Boswell is a disaster. He basically invited the Red Bulls in to score that goal and opened the door for them. Olsen’s tactics are similarly disastrous – I almost feel bad for DC fans, having to watch that boring, ineffectual soccer.

    • You don’t have to almost feel bad for DCU fans. Four MLS cups, three U.S. Open cups, and a whole lot of good times. Could have used Eddie Johnson in this series. Saborio was a bust.

    • agreed on boswell; he needs to be seen as depth at this point, although that goal could be equally on kemp (who was comically out of position) and hamid (who–like the first game–hesitated when he should have committed).

      and listen to dikranovich. dc’s had a bad year, and still made it to the second round of the playoffs. benny needs to go, though. he’s done the best he could, but basically re-made the team in his image: hard-working, ugly, and juuuuust not good enough.

    • I’m glad DC lost. You can only hack your way so far in the league these days and Boswell is a disgrace to the sport. The only thing he can do these days is throw cheap shots. Time for him to get a job at Dick’s Sporting goods.

  3. Hardly a great game,…but a great result. The stadium was full and both supporters groups were loud.

    Red Bulls almost had a great start with a slick set piece,….but it went begging. Had they scored the game would have been off to a raucous start.

    Red Bulls will have to up their game to beat either Columbus or Montreal.

  4. Not a fan of the team, but an admirer of what Marsch and Co. has done. Ok- not done yet but… well on way. They had a plan, belief and balls to go against grain/ step out of flashy big market mold (polar opposite of NYFC) and build something the right way amid pleeennnnnty of skepticism and criticism. It would have been much easier to continue with same-same. I’m very happy to staying true to their ideals is paying dividends. Congrats so far and good on you Red Bulls.


Leave a Comment