Skip to content

MLS playoff preview: New York Red Bulls at D.C. United

Nov 3, 2012, 1:00 PM EDT

Andy Najar;   Eric Avila ; Ashtone Morgan

As if this meeting of old rivals, swell and storied, needed yet another talking point – and a contentious one, at that …

The third-seeded Red Bulls were set to host second-seeded D.C. United tonight at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

But Hurricane Sandy compromised the Red Bulls’ ability to properly host the home-and-home series opener, so league and club officials swapped dates. That did not sit well with some D.C. United fans, who felt their club had earned the little competitive edges that come with hosting that second leg.

As we said … as if this one needed more to gab about.

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET, RFK Stadium, NBC Sports Network

(Official league preview is here)

On D.C. United

  • United president Kevin Payne on the switch: “These are extraordinary circumstances that we all face. Our club worked very hard to try to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs and we are very proud that we achieved that but there are times when circumstances override competitive concerns and this is clearly one of those times.”
  • For all the consternation created with the logistical swap, these things rarely require that 30-minute extra time (or into penalty kicks.) Among 36 home-and-away series since 2003, only seven needed more than 180 minutes to declare a survivor.
  • D.C. United’s midfield lately has included two screeners (Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa), with Branko Boskovic creating from wide areas and Chris Pontius or promising rookie Nick DeLeon working the flank opposite Boskovic.
  • Pontius will be on the field. Book it. If he’s not toiling usefully along the outside of midfield, he’ll be paired usefully with a striker at the top of United’s 4-4-2 (probably alongside Lionard Pajoy, who has been marginally productive in 12 games for United since the summer trade from Philadelphia.)
  • Best right back in the playoffs, from an attacking standpoint: D.C. United’s Andy Najar (pictured), a natural midfielder who made the switch to the back line late in the season and does add some additional offensive punch.
  • Speaking of more offensive punch: is a Dwayne De Rosario sighting near?

(MORE: De Rosario upgraded to questionable. Hmmmm.)

  • Young goalkeeper Bill Hamid has been study in good and bad, helping his team with big saves but scaring the bejeebers out of DCU fans with wobbles in bad places.
  • Simply put, United has New York’s number at RFK Stadium. Always has. United is 24-8-5 at their historic home against the club from New York (including playoffs and U.S. Open Cup). The Red Bulls have been a little better lately at RFK, going 2-1-1 since 2009, although this version of DCU is better than most of those.

On the New York Red Bulls:

  • I am on record as saying this is the most talented MLS team ever assembled on paper. But that’s the thing: the Red Bulls somehow seem to be less than the sum of their pricey and talented parts. Even star striker Thierry Henry says so.
  • The missing ingredient in simplest terms: urgency.
  • Henry (15 goals) and Kenny Cooper (18 goals) form the league’s second most productive scoring tandem. (San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon combine for 40.)
  • As so many of the players were without power at their homes – not to mention that the arena remains running only on generator power – the club left a day early, on Thursday, for Washington, D.C.
  • The injury to Tim Cahill must be concerning. He may not have shown up much in the score sheet since that out-of-nowhere late summer arrival into Red Bull Arena (1 goal, 3 assists in 12 games). But the Australian international’s work rate, his defensive ability on set pieces, his overall two-way ability and the attention Cahill demands from defenses has a sure value. Backe says Dax McCarty will move inside from the wide position he has played lately if Cahill is not available.

(MORE: Cahill’s calf injury is trouble for New York)

  • Also, without Cahill, look for Thierry Henry to revert back into the old habits of dropping too far into the midfield to help with possession in the central third. That does two things: it draws him further away from striker Kenny Cooper, who isn’t the best at holding up play as it is. And it reduces the Red Bulls ability to press high. The Red Bulls are considerably more effective when do apply pressure further up the field.
  • Red Bulls manager Hans Backe on United: “Without De Ro, they are more of a battling team, a really, really hard-working team.”
  • Speaking of Backe, his place seems highly unstable. A first-round elimination might just finish the job as new management looks for a way to reshape the club in its own image – whatever that is.
  • Rafa Marquez has settled in as a center back late this season (rather than in his previous midfield role.) Heath Pearce is  on the left, which is his natural position.

Bottom line:

Both teams are better with the ball than without it. That’s a kind way of saying there are defensive deficiencies’ on both sides. Don’t be shocked if this one finishes 2-2 or even 3-2.

Which way? Well, the season series landed about as even as it could at 1-1-1. So, file most predictions under “just guessing.”

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Power Rankings: Will Chelsea ever lose, Burnley ever win?

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Leicester City v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    We are a quarter of the way through the season. Scary, right? Anyway, here’s our latest rankings of power.

  2. Benfica boss says he’s FIFA Coach of the Year material; Five more names

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:21 AM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    “Some weren’t in the European finals, some weren’t even domestic champions,” said Jesus. Others were, and weren’t nominated. We’ll give out some props.

  3. Premier League Preview: Newcastle United vs. Liverpool

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Suddenly-hot Newcastle United put their three-match win streak on the line when they host Liverpool on Saturday morning.

  4. Champs no more, proud Sporting KC coach Vermes laments late goal

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Peter Vermes AP

    Bradley Wright-Phillips netted twice in the final 13 minutes and Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes was left to explain the loss.

  5. Steven Gerrard will play somewhere next season, Liverpool deal or not

    Oct 31, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Getty Images

    It’s difficult to imagine him playing in a different shirt, but one-club men grow more rare by the season.

  6. MLS playoff update: How does postseason picture look right now?

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:13 AM EDT

    mauro-diaz-10-of-fc-dallas Getty Images

    After FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls defeated their opponents in the first two games of the MLS playoffs, the postseason picture exists in its beginning stages.

  7. Robbie Keane, regardless of playoffs, will play in US-Ireland match overseas

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Galaxy  v Chivas USA Getty Images

    Robbie Keane stands ready to play for his international side right after the LA Galaxy’s playoff contests vs. Real Salt Lake.

  8. WATCH: Men in Blazers preview Round 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Can United bounce back from 'that' defeat at Leicester? Getty Images

    Men in Blazers preview Round 10, most notably the Manchester derby.

  9. Fernando Torres on time at Chelsea: ‘I needed to feel important’

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:36 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-STEAUA BUCHAREST

    Fernando Torres, expanding on his decision to leave Chelsea on loan, says he wanted to “feel important.”

  10. Sam Allardyce delighted Newcastle hasn’t axed Pardew

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT

    Alan+Pardew+Sam+Allardyce+VFGweDnwiSUm Getty Images

    West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is happy for the recent triumphs of criticized Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

  11. Wayne Rooney cleared to play in Manchester derby

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Will United surge towards the top four with 14 games to go? AP

    Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney will be available in the upcoming Manchester derby following his three-match suspension.

  12. Celtic midfielder Aleksandar Tonev faces seven-game ban over racism

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    Aleksandar-Tonev-529522 Getty Images

    Action taken against alleged racist actions in the Scottish Premiership.

  13. Daniel Sturridge links injury problems to his ‘Caribbean vibes’

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Manchester City Liverpool Soccer AP

    Sturridge on injury woes: “Maybe it’s my body type, maybe it’s hereditary.”

  14. Fabio Capello attempted to ink Messi on loan at Juventus

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    A young Messi was eyed by Juventus in 2005, says Russia manager Frank Capello.

  15. Twitter reacts to Los Angeles FC’s entry into Major League Soccer

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    B1NhSSECIAIZL5p

    How has the soccer world (via Twitter) responded to the news? With a mixture of interest and humor.

  16. Los Angeles officially given new MLS team; Magic Johnson, Vincent Tan among investors

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    @MLS @MLS

    In what will be called “Los Angeles Football Club” as it goes through its branding, MLS has announced that L.A. has officially been awarded another team.

  17. PST Extra: Getting you ready for The Manchester Derby (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Mike Prindiville and Joe Prince-Wright join Jenna Corrado to discuss the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

  18. Alan Pardew: The Premier League’s antihero

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    Like Steve McQueen in “Papillon,” only nattily-attired, the Newcastle United manager just seems to be constantly yelling out, “Hey… I’m still here.”

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby