After their 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls last week, to a man D.C. United expressed frustration at their lackluster performance, and over the course of the week vowed that they would not, were not, going to be training at RFK Stadium for one last time. And while they started promising, the performance of last week reared its ugly head again, giving up a vital away goal. The Black and Red won 2-1 but lost on aggregate 3-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 20,187 at RFK.
D.C. started the game with Chris Rolfe playing close to Fabian Espindola at forward, with Rolfe and Chris Pontius sharing the same playing field as teammates for the first time this year. With a more involved Pontius and Nick DeLeon D.C. controlled the possession for most of the opening stages of the match. New York remained composed however, even providing an occasional counter opportunity to keep Bobby Boswell and Steven Birnbaum honest in back.
At the 37th minute, the game's monotony was broken as DeLeon headed in a perfect cross from Taylor Kemp to open up scoring for D.C., halving the margin with a header past Luis Robles. The Red Bulls had a great opportunity when Bradley Wright-Phillips managed to get past Boswell and Birnbaum, only to be denied by Bill Hamid, giving both fanbases a chance to gird their loins as halftime arrived.
The second half found New York on the front foot in the opening moments, with Lloyd Sam getting a shot close in, but on a sharp angle and Hamid collected easily. Espindola had a header in front of Jamison Olave in the 54th, but it went just wide of the net. And in the 55th minute, Peguy Luyindula struck again on the D.C. defense from a cross by Thierry Henry, flicking it past Hamid to get the away goal and cinch the series for the Red Bulls.
Roy Miller's attempt at schadenfreude appeared at the 78th minute, drawing a red card when fouling Sean Franklin, giving D.C. a shot in the arm. Franklin scored on a volley in the 90th minute past Robles to get one back, though whomever the Red Bulls play next get the opportunity to take advantage as Miller will miss both legs of the Eastern Conference Final.
New York moves on to go to either play the Columbus Crew or New England Revolution, dependent on the result of their second leg match. D.C. gets to rue what was in the first leg as the offseason begins early for them, with an early start to camp on the back end as the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage beckons in February.