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. Manchester United to sign Toni Kroos? Think again

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:58 AM EDT

    Toni Kroos, Pierre-Michel Lasogga AP

    Kroos’ camp say he won’t move on until 2015, as Bayern and United scrap over German star.

  2. Manchester City the best paid team in sport, beat New York Yankees to accolade

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

    Manchester City's Belgian captain Vincen

    The top 10 best paid sports teams in the world revealed. Find out who pays the most, right here:

  3. CONCACAF Champions League: Toluca escapes Estadio Azul with 0-0, opening leg draw

    Apr 15, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    marco_fabian AP

    Mexico’s top two teams reach halftime of their two-legged final, with leg two kickoff next Wednesday in Toluca.

  4. PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 6

    Apr 15, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT

    javier_morales_kyle_beckerman AP

    The top four remain unchanged, while Houston, New England, and Portland make big shifts on this week’s chart.

  5. Video: Remembering the Hillsborough disaster, 25 years later

    Apr 15, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    anfield AP

    Thoughts from NBCSN’s analysts as will as footage from Rodgers’, Martínez’s speeches at Anfield.

  6. ProSoccerTalk MLS Team of the Week – Week 6

    Apr 15, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    federico_higuain AP

    Three LA Galaxy players join two members of the Columbus Crew in our Best XI.

  7. Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can finish in the top four

    Apr 15, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

    Gunners go back into the top four, but can they hold off Everton?

  8. Survey: Ronaldo, Messi, Ibrahimovic among top five highest paid athletes in the world

    Apr 15, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT

    Will Ronaldo win his first-ever Champions League title with Real Madrid this season? AP

    Four soccer players rank amount the world’s top 25 earners.

  9. Crimes and Misdemeanors: Giancarlo Gonzalez’s dive draws MLS’s attention

    Apr 15, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    eddie_johnson_giancarlo_gonzalez AP

    Columbus’s Costa Rican international is the latest player to donate to MLS Works.

  10. Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United: Podolski double puts Gunners back in the win column (video)

    Apr 15, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    lukas_podolski Getty Images

    The Gunners overcame a Matt Jarvis opener to take their second win of the season from the Irons.

  11. Report: Tottenham Hotspur want Jurgen Klopp as new boss

    Apr 15, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Borussia Dortmund's coach Klopp waves to supporters at the end of their Champions League quarter final first leg soccer match against Malaga in Malaga

    Klopp to take over at White Hart Lane?

  12. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Clint Dempsey

    Apr 15, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT

    Dempsey's six goals in four games (three starts) are tops in Major League Soccer, putting him one ahead of Chivas USA's Erick Torres. (Credit: AP Photos) AP

    Last week’s hat trick couldn’t snare our honor, but two goals in Dallas made the Sounder star this week’s best player.

  13. Soccer helping to bring together Syrian children in refugee camp

    Apr 15, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    Photothek Getty Images

    A story from The Daily Beast deals with many obstacles faced by the girls, including some prevailing belief that they shouldn’t even watch sport, let alone play soccer.

  14. Watch Live: Arsenal vs. West Ham United (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 15, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

    Wojciech Szczesny AP

    The Gunners and Hammers are putting some London derby bragging rights on the line this evening at the Emirates Stadium live on NBCSN and online NBC Sports Live Extra

  15. Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. West Ham United

    Apr 15, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    West Ham United v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    West Ham last took a point from Arsenal in an October 2009 draw, and hasn’t beaten the Gunners since an April 7, 2007 win at the Emirates.

  16. On anniversary of Boston Marathon attack, video details Reis’ heroics

    Apr 15, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT

    Columbus Crew v New England Revolution Getty Images

    MLSSoccer.com’s “MLS Insider” series brings a strong video on the anniversary of Matt Reis’ heroics at the Boston Marathon bombing.

  17. WATCH: Roberto Martinez’s stirring speech at Hillsborough memorial

    Apr 15, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    His speech was equal parts soccer fan, Merseyside resident and fixture in the game.

  18. Inter Milan player produces a historically-scummy bit of gamesmanship

    Apr 15, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    UC Sampdoria v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A Getty Images

    Let’s say you’re dating your ex-teammate’s ex-wife and spend a lot of time with his kids. What’s a super scummy idea before your team plays his?

Featured video

Week 34: Weekend Recap