D.C. United 1, Red Bulls 1: A look back

The Red Bulls escaped RFK Stadium with a draw, and head to Red Bull Arena in prime position to advance to the Eastern Conference final. That’s assuming they can play well at home, which they have done for the most part all season.

For D.C. United, Saturday will feel like a wasted opportunity to grab the series by the neck. They created chances, put some good sequences together, but never could beat Luis Robles. Chris Pontius’ penalty was costly, but that was far from the only wasted chance. They had plenty of possession, but never could be sharp in the final third, and let the Red Bulls off the hook.

Here is a rundown of some observations from Saturday night’s 1-1 draw.

Hans Backe started Sebastien LeToux ahead of Kenny Cooper to give the Red Bulls front line some speed to trouble the D.C. United defense. The only problem is LeToux was largely invisible for much of the night. He just didn’t get involved.

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Thierry Henry has just two goals this year vs. playoff teams, and tonight he never looked close to threatening the D.C. goal. He feasted on weak teams all season. If he doesn’t deliver a gem on Wednesday there should be serious questions raised about whether he can raise his game against the league’s best.

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Bill Hamid got bumped on the fluky own goal. Referee Jair Marrufo didn’t see it, neither did the fourth official. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t a foul. That said, Hamid needs to punch that ball away. If he punches, it’s a non-issue.

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Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa put in a lot of work to control the middle of the field. Tim Cahill and Teemu Tainio were neutralized. Cahill might have been hampered by calf injury that was bothering him earlier in the week, but New York needs more from him on Wednesday if they’re going to win.

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Chris Pontius abused Connor Lade in the first half, but ultimately never did turn that advantage into a goal. He did draw a penalty (which was missed), but by the second half Lade had settled down and played much better. Credit to the rookie for keeping it together after what was a thoroughly shocking first half.

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Roy Miller is a bad playoff soccer player. For three straight years now he has managed to make a shockingly bad play that has cost his team dearly. You can argue that Hans Backe had no choice because of Rafa Marquez’s injury, and because of Brandon Barklage’s injury, but whether it’s playing Tyler Ruthven or Stephen Keel, or pulling Wilman Conde out of hiding/exile/seclusion, Hans Backe CANNOT afford to play Miller again. Maybe if the Red Bulls have a 4-0 lead on Wednesday. MAYBE then.

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After the match, Rafa Marquez spoke to assembled media and stated that he had an injury. This didn’t really jibe with the observations made by many at halftime, that he got into a verbal confrontation with Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. If Backe pulled Marquez because of that altercation, nobody on the Red Bulls was copping to it. Let’s just say Marquez didn’t exactly sound believable, but that’s the story the team, and Marquez, is sticking with.

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D.C. United needs to attack the Red Bulls central defense with speed. While having Chris Pontius abuse Connor Lade is fun to watch for D.C., having him abuse New York’s centerbacks would be much more effective.

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Andy Najar just lost it. He’s young, and he’ll learn, but he really cost his team dearly. His overlapping presence and speed on the flank is key to what D.C. United does. Without it, Ben Olsen will have to turn to the playoff experienced, but not nearly as dangerous Robbie Russell.

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Luis Robles played very well. Not just on his clutch saves, but on his positioning and handling the ball throughout the match. He had a very clean game, showing solid poise. He looks capable of helping carry a defense that is vulnerable.

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Credit to Joel Lindpere for stepping up his game in the second half. In the first half and early second half he looked stiff, but as the second half rolled on he started to show more purpose. If he starts contributing more, the Red Bulls attack will find more options.

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Ben Olsen might want to reconsider the 4-5-1 formation with Lionard Pajoy as the target striker. Pajoy isn’t very good. D.C. needs to either play Pontius as a forward, or give Lewis Neal or Hamdi Salihi the start up top. Giving the Red Bulls centerback pairing of Markus Holgersson and Rafa Marquez the simple task of dealing with Pajoy is letting them off the hook. Nobody has really tested that tandem with pace yet. Olsen needs to do that if D.C. is going to win at Red Bull Arena.

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What did you think of the match? Agree or disagree with the observations?

Share your thoughts below.

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36 Responses to D.C. United 1, Red Bulls 1: A look back

  1. dru says:

    a couple of things…first ben olsen calling the red bulls “beatable” seems a little crazy, for one talent wise the red bulls are above and beyond dc united, pontius is good but give me break hes not wondo he barely did enough tonight against a rookie who is 5’5, the red bulls controlled possession the whole game when this team wants to win they will win we’ve all seen it this year, if somehow backe can get marquez back on track and henry plays a little better they should be fine but throughout the game ives and nbc all on united’s side like they were just so amazing it was pretty laughable a lot of red bull haters out there but its ok true red bull fans believe that when this team wants to play they r too good

    • Mwing09 says:

      DCU looked more dangerous than NYRB when it was 10v11, so Im confused how calling them “beatable” is so far fetched. Also, “when this team wants to win they will win”……are you saying they just didnt try for 18 games this season? If I were you Id be a little more concerned if that’s what you believe….

      • dru says:

        have u watched some of their games? this team is the one of the best teams in the league when they want it but again they dont have the coach to manage all these personalities that is y they run into some problems

        • Becks says:

          If u ask me, all of their malaise and misfortune is attributable to spending most of their invaluable training time at a 3rd rate abandoned building & training facility that wasn’t even good enough for the D3 community college teams. It affects your psyche and work ethic as a pro athlete, which needs to be top of the top.  To be the best, you have to beat the best.  So you have to believe you’re the best.  MSU is not doing that for the Red Bulls. And it shows, year after injury plagued year.

    • elgringorico says:

      did you watch the game?

    • Joamiq says:

      I’m a Red Bulls fan, and we are plenty beatable. That was not a good performance.

  2. deepvalue says:

    DCU was the better team all night – even a man down. Deleon, Kitchen, Korb, and Najar make up a great young core. Plus Pontius and Hamid who played one of his best games despite relatively little action and the costly half miscue. He didn’t get caught in no man’s land by hesitating off the line like he has in the past. United successfully hit the ball long to Pajoy all night who held the ball well but wasn’t getting enough timely support from teammates to create real chances in the final third.

  3. Heft says:

    I am a fan of Thierry Henry, but he looked terrible last night. NYRB’s three DP’s did not impress at all.

    The referee no-called a backpass right in front of him.

  4. elgringorico says:

    Andy, who is usually a total level-leaded team player, made a terrible mistake. Just a momentary lapse of judgment. He will be sorely missed in the next game.

    The way I see it, the series is still up in the air, with NY having a slight edge because of Andy Najar being out, but not because they have home field advantage. They haven’t played particularly well at home.

    Thought Pajoy had one of his better games but DC’s attack just won’t be effective with him by himself up there. I say switch it up completely and put Pontius and Santos/Salihi together up top. Use Bosko to feed them and Korb/DeLeon to work the flanks.

    One curious thing to follow will be how DeRo is listed on the depth chart. If he could somehow make a miraculous return on Wednesday , it would (obviously) be a game changer. Doubtful though.

    Hopefully no own goals or red cards in the second leg. Good luck to both teams!

    • Joamiq says:

      Red Bulls were 11-4-2 at home and 5-5-7 on the road. They play better at home and will have the advantage there in the return leg.

  5. Dan in New York says:

    Kenny Cooper needs to start in the next leg and they need someone, anyone, who can cross the ball from the wing. I nominate Jan Gunnar Solli. Hamid looks shaky when there’s chaos in front of the net and New York has the bodies to force the issue if they can just get the dang ball in a dangerous place. Also, I don’t know what the issue was with Marquez at half time but Roy Miller SHOULD NOT play the next game.

  6. Paul says:

    It was Boskovic who earned the penalty against Conor Lade, and Pontius who took the penalty. Also, Pajoy may not be a threat to score goals, but his hold up play was excellent. Remember Barcelona’s mantra: the best defense is possession.

  7. deepvalue says:

    Andy didn’t protest much when he saw red but it wasn’t totally clear that he intended to hit the ref. It looked like he just whipped the ball towards the restart spot and the ref happened to walk right into it. Unacceptable either way of course. Agree with the poster who said he would like to see Maicon and Salihi and maybe even De Ro. That would be huge as long as the chemistry is still there.

    • Ramon says:

      I can’t believe Andy lost his cool. I hope he grows up and takes this opportunity to learn composure in big games. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve seen rom a professional soccer player since Zidane head butted Euro trash Mattaratsi.

  8. Ramon says:

    Thanks for your biased opinion Ives. Linpere sucked last night. You also failed to mention Marrufo missed a back pass from Lade to Robles was illegally touched by the keeper. Your assessment of Pajoy is off. He was a threat to NY’s back line all night. Your assessment was right about two things, DC should have started another forward. Also DC missed too many opportunities and that’s the main reason for the tie despite the typical poor MLS officiating.

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      Ramon, Lindpere improved toward the end, which is what I said. Your ‘he sucks’ observation isn’t really bringing much to the conversation. As for the ref calls that were missed, I touched on those on Twitter. And lastly, if you think Pajoy was ‘dangerous’ I’m not sure there’s much else to say. Agree to disagree.

      • Georkt says:

        Sorry Ives, but I’m going to have to give you a yellow card for even replying to Ramon. If one is to complain, at least get it rignt. The back pass nonsense was Holgersson, Lindpere did step up in the 2nd half and was in alone on Hamid and the only danger Pajoy presented was a diving score of less than 5. I’d also give Maruffo high marks for keeping the game under control. The PK was the correct call and I’m a RB fan. The red card was just sheer stupidity.

        • Ives Galarcep says:

          I’ll take the yellow since you agree with me. I won’t Najar you and throw a ball at you. Thanks. LOL

          • Georkt says:

            Fair enough sir and I won’t Denilson you by grabbing my face and rolling in pain when you don’t throw the ball at me…..very LOL

        • Ramon says:

          Pajoy held possession and was the only one hustling to pressure NY’s back line. If he wasn’t the only forward, he would have a better game. There are things he does that go unnoticed and he hustles. You don’t see too many forwards with his work rate. That being said his finishing isn’t always great.

      • Ramon says:

        You know I was watching lindpere the whole game. He was slow, his passes were inaccurate, and he never looked dangerous to me. The back pass was obvious. If you missed that I can’t provide an explanation other than your blind. Marrufo missed a few calls and looked asleep at times. He didn’t seem to be paying attention on an offsides call or when Hamid was pushed. It’s a shame that Red Bull fans can’t accept they got away with a tie. Oh by the way I’m in stitches with all the clever yellow card jokes. You guys are too funny!

        • Ives Galarcep says:

          Lindpere was bad in the first half, but really turned it on in the last 25 minutes. Maybe you missed that while you were trying to figure out why your team couldn’t score at home. And are Red Bulls fans really saying they played a great game? Not sure I’ve heard that from many people. They didn’t play that well, and Robles helped them win, but D.C. gets blame for not delivering the win either.

          • Ramon says:

            Spare me your snarky remarks. DC has four MLS Cups to your zero. I was sitting across from the DC goal in the second half and lindpere had a few decent touches. Speaking of stats how many assist did your boy have in the second half? None zilch zero the same number as MLS Cups in your trophy case. You see when one has to resort to snarkiness to prove a point it simply means your losing the argument.

          • Ramon says:

            Your right about one thing DC blew many opportunities, especially in the first half. That’s why they lost. However Marrufo helped the Red Bull’s out by not calling the back pass to Robles and the non call when Hamid was pushed. That being said I’m not whining about the tie because if DC finishes half their chances it would have been 3-1.

          • Georkt says:

            That’s it Ives, you’ve earned a second yellow for continuing this conversation. Take the walk past the bench and into the clubhouse. As a RB fan you are spot on about the match. Ooops, I’ll have to take a yellow for my two cents.

            • Ramon says:

              I’ll decide who receives which cards. Ives just gets a warning and you s straight red for dissent and throwing the ball in my general direction.

              • Georkt says:

                Wrong sir, I fart in your general direction, now go away or I’ll shall taunt you a second tim ee *

                *”Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

              • Ramon says:

                Quoting French character from Mighty Python is enough to let me know a clever reply is not warranted.

  9. ManicMessiah says:

    I wouldn’t compare this mishap to the other ones for Roy Miller. He knew he had an attacker behind him and he had to make a play under pressure with his right foot.

    If Miller doesn’t play I can’t exactly argue at this point, but I’d rather see him and Pearce on the left hand side, Lindpere doesn’t seem to be moving around to well on that side, and I do like Miller going forward.

    As for Thierry Henry, I can’t swear this because I haven’t gone back and watched the games, but it seems when playing against good teams he spends all his time going backwards to get the ball, so he doesn’t find himself forward enough to score goals.

    When Marquez was in back they should have left it on him to distribute the ball, but instead everyone else wants to go back, so Tainio or Cahill move up, then Henry moves up, and the spacing gets all messed up and players you want to have the ball are taking it too far away from goal.

  10. Amit says:

    DJ Solli needs to get in on the right to bring some much needed composure and passing skill. Let Dax go to the middle. The only problem the Red Bulls has is the ever-changing role every player has on the team. I’m sure Ben Olsen doesn’t make players change their position every freaking game, regardless of injuries. Imagine Marcelo Saragosa being the high attacking midfielder one game, a defensive midfield player the next game, and then a right winger the third match.

    • Brain Guy says:

      I agree that Dax’s best position is in the middle, behind Cahill, but then do you sit Tainio? I also agree that Solli would provide some needed speed and crossing ability on the right side of the midfield. The problem (as with the USMNT) is that the team’s best midfielders (McCarty, Cahill, Tainio) all play best in a central position. McCarty needs to be on the field under any circumstances. I would play a midfield of McCarty-Cahillo-Tainio-Solli. Oh, and Cooper MUST start up top along with Henry. The tinkering with the forwards must stop.