A day after snow storm, Red Bulls and D.C. United set for playoff battle

A day after a snow storm forced the postponement of their second-leg decider on the Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United will return to Red Bull Arena tonight to take care of unfinished business.

The Red Bulls will host D.C. United at Red Bull Arena tonight after Wednesday night’s snow storm forced the second leg to be postponed and both teams will be fighting to advance to the Eastern Conference finals after playing to a 1-1 draw last Saturday at RFK Stadium.

The postponed match did provide us a glimpse into what both teams had in mind for the second leg in terms of lineups. For the Red Bulls, Kenny Cooper was inserted into the starting lineup while Rafa Marquez was healthy enough to make a return from the calf injury that forced him out on Saturday.

For D.C., the suspension of Andy Najar will mean Robbie Russell in the lineup at right back. Left back is also influx, with Lewis Neal set to deputize in place of the injured Chris Korb.

The battle of goalkeepers will also be something to keep an eye on. Luis Robles was heroic in goal for New York in the first leg, while Bill Hamid scored an own goal in an otherwise sturdy outing.

Both teams will also be playing with the knowledge that a victory means they will be the higher seed in the Eastern Conference final after No. 1 seed Sporting Kansas City was eliminated by the Houston Dynamo. Both teams also know that they will host the MLS Cup Final if they get that far (after San Jose’s loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy eliminated the Earthquakes, the team with the best record in MLS during the regular season).

Here is a closer look at tonight’s decisive second leg:

NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. D.C. UNITED

WHEN: at Red Bull Arena: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network).

FIRST LEG: The Red Bulls fought off a poor start to earn a 1-1 draw against United in the national’s capital last Saturday in a wild game that saw a penalty kick saved, two own goals and a red card to Andy Najar for throwing the ball at the referee after being whistled for a foul.

SEASON SERIES: The two rivals ended the regular season series even at 1-1-1. D.C. United won, 4-1, at home on April 22, the Red Bulls took a 3-2 victory at Red Bull Arena on June 24 and the two teams tied, 2-2, at RFK Stadium on August 29.

KEY PLAYERS – D.C. UNITED: F Chris Pontius, M Nick DeLeon, GK Bill Hamid, D Brandon McDonald  RED BULLS: F Thierry Henry, M Tim Cahill, M Dax McCarty, D Rafa Marquez

WHAT WE LEARNED IN THE FIRST LEG: The Red Bulls continue to look a shaky team on the road, and goalkeeper Luis Robles had to come up big in order for them to escape RFK Stadium with a result. D.C. United, although less experienced in the playoffs, look a team that is confident to knock off the talented Red Bulls.

MATCH-UP TO WATCH: Chris Pontius vs. Connor Lade. Pontius had his way with Lade for much of the game on Saturday and you can expect Olsen to try and exploit that mismatch some more in the second leg. Backe has talked about helping Lade defensively, so it will be interesting what tactics each coach deploys in this duel.

OUTLOOK: The two rivals want nothing more than to advance in the playoffs while eliminating the other, but while both may want to play offensively, the weather conditions might prevent them from doing so. Expect both teams to be safe with the ball in the opening minutes as they try to acclimatize to the weather.

PREDICTION: The Red Bulls are a stronger and different team at home than when playing on the road, so they should be able to finish their business against United, especially if Kenny Cooper earns a start. Red Bulls win a close one, 2-1.

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What do you think of this series? Think the Red Bulls will win at home? Do you see Pontius helping United to a win? See D.C. United being motivated by the postponement of the match on Wednesday?

Share your thoughts below.

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31 Responses to A day after snow storm, Red Bulls and D.C. United set for playoff battle

  1. PD says:

    can’t wait to see what Hamid has up his sleeve…

  2. elgringorico says:

    I think the weather actually gives DC an edge. The first matchup of the season was in pouring down rain – Pontius went crazy and Henry was neutralized. I think DC’s players are a bit grittier and ready to slop around. NY’s skill players won’t know what to do with the wintry mix stuff! Vamos!

    Hilarious picture by the way.

  3. Dainja says:

    AGAIN…props on the awesome photo SBI. Cue the “half or full nelson” jokes, the gay sex jokes, and the “using someone else’s arms for mine” comedy bit jokes.

  4. bryan says:

    UNITED!

  5. Adam M. says:

    I can’t believe they are really going to play this game during a Nor’easter a week after Sandy with no PATH train. Sometimes life gets in the way of scheduling, and should.

  6. KEEP says:

    At least 700 DCU fans making this trip

    • slowleftarm says:

      Then you may outnumber the NYRB supporters! Seriously, with the weather we’ve had here there and will be having tonight are not going to be many people at RBA tonight. I’m a season-ticket holder and the only game I missed all year was the Chris Heck 1pm midweek game debacle but I won’t be there. I doubt I’m the only one. Anyway, if you’re headed to the game be safe!

    • bryan says:

      yeah man. Barra Brava has 4 sold out buses in route right now. Screaming Eagles too.

      it’s already snowing up there.

  7. Brain Guy says:

    Does MLS have the special orange soccer balls that you can see on a snow-covered field?

  8. Conrad says:

    Is this game being broadcast?

  9. kol says:

    Hamid even playing tonight, cant find the line up for tonight.

  10. kol says:

    Sorry; lets try this again lol. I want to know if Hamdi Salihi starting or playing tonight at all. Thanks

    • elgringorico says:

      Doubtful that he will start. It’s definitely possible that you’ll see him come off the bench in the second half.

      • kol says:

        I think it’s a mistake by the coach, at least put him in around 70 min. He is not used to American players lol; they can run for days. Olsen i guess knows something i don’t know.

        • elgringorico says:

          Yeah, I actually agree with you. the thing is that like you noted Olsen REALLY values workrate more than anything else. Pajoy hustles. Salihi is certainly a stronger finisher though.

          • Northzax says:

            Pajoy isn’t there to score (at least he wasn’t Saturday) he’s there to harass the defense with his work rate and hold possession on long balls. The first he did better than the second.

          • kol says:

            nicely said; defense cant always carry the team.

  11. 0-0 or 1-0 game, Weather will be a huge factor in keeping the score low. Both teams will be cautious.

  12. deepvalue says:

    Korb emerged as a solid contributor this year. He will be missed tonight even though Neal is a really solid player. Korb also has the shortest soccer socks anyone has ever seen.

  13. Danny says:

    I just came here to say great photo. :)

  14. Todd says:

    It would be very fitting that the Red Bulls loose.