D.C. United had the crowd in their favor, and plenty of possession on the night, but what they couldn’t do is find a way to get a shot past Luis Robles.
The Red Bulls goalkeeper, who only took over the starting job late in the season, made every play he had to. He stoned a dangerous early shot from Chris Korb, and made a clutch save on a Chris Pontius penalty, to help the Red Bulls earn a 1-1 draw vs. D.C. United at RFK Stadium in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
No D.C. player could beat Robles on the night, but second-half Red Bulls substitute Roy Miller did, scoring a perfect volley own goal to give D.C. a second-half lead.
The Red Bulls found an equalizer soon after, and much like the own goal they surrendered, D.C. took turns being generous when Bill Hamid bobbled a Heath Pearce header, falling into his own net with the ball to give the Red Bulls a strange but official equalizer. Hamid appeared to be run into by Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson on the play, but no call was made.
D.C. United’s night got even stranger when young standout Andy Najar was sent off for consecutive yellow cards after responding to a yellow card by throwing the ball at referee Jair Marrufo. His bad decision left D.C. United down a man, and also rules out the Honduran standout for the second leg at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls defended decently in the first half, with Robles coming up big repeatedly, and also with Rafa Marquez and Markus Holgersson standing up well, but Marquez left the match at half-time with what was called calf tightness (there were reports of a shouting match at halftime between Marquez and Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe).
Marquez’s exit led to the insertion of Roy Miller, a player notorious for having had awful playoff turns in his first two seasons in the league. He lived up to that reputation with one of the more perfectly-struck own goals you will see.
D.C. couldn’t capitalize on that though, and now head to Red Bull Arena needing to win at a venue where the Red Bulls have only lost once this year.
The night was marked by surprising decisions by Hans Backe, who kept team scoring leader Kenny Cooper on the bench in favor of Sebastien LeToux.
What did you think of the match? Impressed with Robles? Think D.C. United can win at Red Bull Arena?
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