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Three things we learned from D.C. United’s dramatic 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls

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When you have a story pre-written and have to change all of it in stoppage time, but you don’t really mind because we didn’t lose to the Metros.

MLS: D.C. United at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United continued their cardiac stoppage time ways this afternoon, coming back from a two-goal deficit late to hold the New York Red Bulls to a 2-2 draw. Gonzalo Veron and golden boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips had the hosts ahead until Steve Birnbaum and Lamar Neagle clawed United back for their second straight 2-2 draw against their Atlantic Cup rivals.

And speaking of that particular trophy, the draw secures MLS’s oldest rivalry trophy for the Black-and-Red for the year. Never a bad thing.

Here are my initial thoughts from today’s dramatics. Please share your takeaways in the comments.

1. Bill Hamid gives us a chance in every single game United play

Yeah, he played Bradley Wright-Phillips’ goal badly. But then, when a lesser keeper (including past versions of himself) might have gotten into his head and beaten himself up, Bill Hamid stepped his game to another level and made at least four ridiculous saves to keep the Red Bulls out of the net.

There’s simply no better living American goalkeeper.

2. D.C. United’s wingers had a bad day, and so everybody else did, too.

Before we go any further, bear in mind that everything that follows was written before Lamar Neagle’s stoppage time equalizer, when Bill Hamid was the only thing keeping a loss from becoming an embarrassment against our biggest rivals. Hell, most of it was written before Birnbaum pulled the first goal back. Even if the feeling is a little better coming out with a point, there were still some ungood truths from today.

With the Metros missing their two first-choice wings, and with the hosts’ weakest position being fullback, Patrick Nyarko and Lloyd Sam were always going to be a big part of Ben Olsen’s gameplan. They became Plans A through D when Luciano Acosta picked up his fifth yellow card, and the suspension that came with it, last week. (More on that below.)

Los Capitalinos needed Nyarko and Sam to come up big today. In no uncertain terms, those two men did not do that. Time and again, Nyarko was too passive, Sam too indecisive. Sam had a couple of good combinations, notably with Nick DeLeon, but so many times in his hour of work did we see him stand on the ball in space and wait to be dispossessed? Add the blown 1v1 with Luis Robles, and you’ve had yourself a bad afternoon, Lloyd Sam.

And then Nyarko was worse.

We weren’t ever going to have a real chance on the road against RBNY without halfway decent play from those two, and we didn’t see it today.

3. This team needs Luciano Acosta in a big way, and not just in possession

We all know how important the little Argentine is to how United want to play, and those who didn’t before today, do now. United were forced to use the wings even more than usual, all but abandoning build-up through the center of the field.

It’s not just in possession, where Acosta’s ability to hold the ball in traffic and find useful outlets, combinations and throughballs is vital to United’s 4141. He essentially acts as the Black-and-Red’s brain when the team is pressing. He directs pressure and makes the first move when the team ratchets things up in the offensive third.

When Acosta turns the head up on a centerback, the rest of the team reads it and reacts accordingly. It doesn’t appear that anyone else on the team has the license and ability to step first and have the rest of the team follow.

United were lacking that direction when the Red Bulls were in possession in their own half today. Aurelian Collin and Damien Parinelle only once or twice had to deal with any kind of real pressure while they were on the ball, and they played confidently in the knowledge that they would have time and space to make decisions.

That made life easier for the hosts’ midfield — which don’t really need much help when it comes to winning that part of the field — and we know how this story ends.

Given Lucho’s importance to the team, this is just about the best news we could have hoped to hear today.

Bonus Fourth Thing. We all remember what happened 15 years ago.

I was in my dorm room at the residential high school in Indiana where I’d just started my senior year. The girl I was kind-of-sort-of dating the way that happens in high school (and especially at residential schools) called my room and woke me up to tell me that planes had flown into each of the twin towers and into the Pentagon.

Everybody was in a state of shock, obviously. Nobody knew at the time really what was happening, and everybody was scared that another shoe was going to drop. And, as I said, this was in Indiana.

So increase that experience by an order of magnitude for anybody who lived through it in the DC and New York metro areas, and it’s no surprise everything kind of stops for a moment on this day every year.

Which brings me back to soccer, where our usual rivals in the South Ward outdid themselves with a quality tifo display reminding us that we’re ultimately all in this thing together, especially our two regions.

Hat’s off, friends.

That’s what I’m taking away from today’s draw. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.