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. Sepp Blatter’s championing of women’s soccer leaves Megan Rapinoe unimpressed

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Rapinoe Getty Images

    Popularity of women’s soccer has improved greatly the past few years, but there’s still much work to be done, and the US international isn’t happy with FIFAs parading of accomplishments.

  2. Report: Robin van Persie agrees to personal terms with Fenerbahce

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    VanPersie Getty Images

    With the Dutchman set to turn 32 before the start of the league season, Manchester United may look to cash in on his star power after a down year.

  3. Galatasaray officially unveils Lukas Podolski on a permanent transfer from Arsenal

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:22 AM EDT

    Podolski Getty Images

    The German international didn’t get a first-team guarantee from Arsene Wenger, so he moved on.

  4. Shaqiri proving a wanted man with Atletico Madrid and Spurs joining the mix

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT

    Shaqiri Getty Images

    Stoke had an offer accepted by Inter, but two more clubs are reportedly in the mix for the Swiss international.

  5. Copa America Final preview: Argentina looks for first title since 1993 against hosts Chile

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT

    Aguero Getty Images

    Argentina looks to end a 22-year continental trophy drought against the hosts who have never won the Copa America.

  6. MLS Snapshot: Seattle Sounders 1-0 DC United

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT

    Marco Pappa AP

    Tyrone Mears scored an absolute beauty late in the match to down a ten-man D.C. United.

  7. Klinsmann on USMNT’s win over Guatemala: “I’m not happy with that performance”

    Jul 4, 2015, 12:08 AM EDT

    FBL-FRIENDLY-2016-NED-USA Getty Images

    Despite leaving Nashville with a 4-0 win, Jurgen Klinsmann was far from pleased with how the United States played.

  8. MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-1 Chicago Fire

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:32 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Houston Dynamo Getty Images

    Substitutes scored the goals for each side, as the Fire leave Houston with a point.

  9. 2011 Women’s World Cup final loss still burns in Abby Wambach’s memory

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 30:  Abby Wambach #20 of the United States reacts before taking on Germany in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi-Final Match at Olympic Stadium on June 30, 2015 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Wambach gets a second chance in a World Cup final against Japan again on Sunday.

  10. USMNT player ratings: How Klinsmann’s men fared against Guatemala

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Guatemala v United States Getty Images

    Seventeen players saw action in the USMNT’s 4-0 over Guatemala. See who helped (or hurt) their standing heading into the Gold Cup.

  11. Rampone, other US veterans met with Ellis at midway point of Women’s World Cup

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Group D match between Nigeria and USA at BC Place Stadium on June 16, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. Getty Images

    The U.S. turned things around mid-tournament and now finds itself in the World Cup final.

  12. Peru 2-0 Paraguay: Carillo volley gives Peru third place in Copa America

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptm0mmvlntm2nza3owm2njdizti5m2uyzwixztfinjiy AP

    For the second straight Copa America tournament, Peru has left with a third place finish.

  13. USA 4-0 Guatemala: USMNT cruises into Gold Cup with win in Nashville

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Fabian Johnson, Ruben Morales, Carlos Castrillo AP

    Three second half goals led to an easy win for the USMNT, as the Gold Cup is now just four days away.

  14. Turkey time: Nani to Fenerbahce, Podolski set for Galatasaray move

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT

    Nani AP

    Deemed as excess talent by their Premier League clubs, Nani and Lukas Podolski are headed to the Turkish Super Lig.

  15. QPR reject $18 million Leicester City bid for Charlie Austin

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    With Queens Park Rangers relegated to the Championship, the club wants to get top dollar for star striker Charlie Austin.

  16. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America: Peru and Paraguay clash for third place

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe1ytrimtq3yjfiy2i0n2q5mtyyowm1nwe5ngq5ztfj AP

    Pride is on the line as Peru and Paraguay look to take home third place at the 2015 Copa America.

  17. Nicolas Anelka named manager of Indian side Mumbai City FC

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    KUWAIT-FRANCE-ANELKA-ISLAM-YOUTH-CONFERENCE Getty Images

    Anelka now a manager? Oh how times have changed…

  18. World players’ union FIFPro opens door to women for first time in 50-year history

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Theo van Seggelen of Fifpro during the International friendly match between Netherlands and Spain on March 31, 2015 at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Women’s players can get representation from FIFPro for the first time in the continued fight for equality.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip