By MIKE NASTRI
It wasn't pretty, but the New York Red Bulls captured their first Atlantic Cup in seven years with a 0-0 draw against DC United.
NYRB's 2-0 win in the first leg back on May 1st was the difference between the two teams. It's only the Red Bulls second Atlantic Cup victory since the trophy was created in 2002.
Despite the hardware, the Red Bulls missed a chance to earn 3 points against last place DC United. United has been in better form of late but have still given up the second most goals in the MLS.
"It wasn't a pretty game in general," said Juan Pablo Angel. "We'll take the point but I don't think it was a pretty game."
The NYRB midfield struggled to string passes together and weren't able to control the rhythm of the game. The Red Bulls excel in matches when their midfield can dominate possession and create chances from the wing, but that wasn't the case against DC.
"Seth Stammler looked exhausted in the first half, no legs," said Backe. "Joel [Lindpere], in a way, just running around the middle of the park, couldn't really get a hold of the ball and go for the final passes for Salou and Angel. So we couldn't break them down, even one versus one in those opportunities."
"We never could keep possession, never could keep the flow going and going forward," said defender Tim Ream.
Creativity was lacking for both teams and there weren't any great scoring opportunities. The two teams combined for only 5 shots on goal.
The only quality chance in the whole game came in the 23rd minute off a set piece from 40 yards out. Juan Pablo Angel stepped up to the ball and fired a rocket, forcing a diving save out of United keeper Troy Perkins.
The rest of the game was a scuffle in midfield and filled with misfired passes for both sides. The dreaded nil-nil draw wasn't attractive to the eye but DC United will certainly take the away point.
"We worked hard and it was a good, full 90 minutes for us," said DC keeper Troy Perkins. "Especially to get a zero on the road is fantastic. Defensively, it was a good game for us, and that's the way games go sometimes. We're happy to get the point, and overall I think we played well."
United continues to crawl out of the basement of the East with slowly improving play.
As for the Red Bulls, they're a team that have made huge strides this season. New York finally held a trophy that has eluded them for seven years. But, this was a missed opportunity by dropping two attainable points at home.
"I think we have to take it step by step," said Backe. "It would be naive to think we could dictate and control every game. We have to take it step by step."
The next step is a difficult one in the Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew. And they'll need a much better effort to gain some very valuable away points.
MORE DP NEWS
Hans Backe shed more light on the third DP and when he could be arriving at RB arena.
"I am rather confident that we can bring in 2 DP players. Hopefully for the [Barclays New York] Challenge, when we start with the Spurs on the 22nd," Backe said.
On whether third DP player would be there for 22nd: "I'm not really sure. I hope it will be possible for that player to be in three or four sessions with us. I don't know if it will be realistic for the 2nd but rather close."
On why he is suddenly optimistic about signing 3rd DP: "We talked about the name. But I thought a couple of months ago it wasn't realistic with that player."
"I was very happy yesterday morning when Erik phoned me from Norway. So I got the message yesterday."
NASH COMES TO RBA
Steve Nash was around at halftime of the match and had some kind words on his good friend Thierry Henry.
"When you have been a professional soccer player on the highest level with all of those expectations since you were 17, sometimes you welcome a change. I think he's accomplished so much."
"He loves America, he loves New York City and I think he's ready for a new challenge. I am thrilled we will be able to see him on a daily basis."
"I think we're lucky because Thierry is still a world class player. We have had players come over and show how great they are but maybe not every night. I think he's still capable of playing at the highest level in the game."
Mac Kandji's 15 minutes at the end of the match were his first since his April 21st surgery to repair a broken metatarsal. Kandji had one shot that went over the bar but was moving well in his fifteen minutes.
"It feels good to be back," Kandji said. "My foot feels great. Just little bumps in practice, here and there. But it feels great. I think it went very well. I got a couple of touches running around. I was kind of dead after that, but I know I will get there."