For once, we have large disagreements between the members of the Black and Red United staff as to what will happen on Saturday. We have large wins, small wins, penalty kicks, and the team both moving on and not moving on. Tell us what you think will happen in the comments!
There are times where your heart wants a certain score, but your mind knows it will probably be different. This...is not one of those times. It's going to be quite simple. Powered by a DC Washington national anthem performance for the ages, in front of a sold out RFK, Espindola gets the party started first with a goal. Then Rolfe sets up Eddie Johnson to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes. 11 minutes later, Chris Pontius brings the house down, making it 3-0 in the 31st minute. It's all going to be locked up early...until Thierry Henry scores in the 60th minute, making it 3-1. Knowing we need one more, Ben Olsen brings Luis Silva on shortly after the Henry goal, and United start to press. Finally, in the 85th minute, Silva delivers the knockout punch, making it 4-1 and sending the entire RFK crowd minus the 750 or so in Red Bulls gear into absolute bedlam and me doing the "Where They At Doe" dance. United advances on 4-3 aggregate and the away goal doesn't matter...and Metro Playoff Failure will have another epic chapter for the blu-ray collection.
2-0 or better hardly seems impossible for United, but the skeptic in me still doesn't see it happening. I'd expect the Metros to sit back for most of the first half, and D.C. is going to need more out of their central midfield engine of Kitchen and Arnaud than it got in the first leg to be able to break down Olave and Co. The away goals rule only hurts the Black and Red from here on out, too, after failing to get on the board in Harrison, N.J. I'll say 1-0 DCU, with a strong final push not quite enough to find the second goal to force extra time.
After being in this situation before in 2012 and not really delivering, I have a hard time seeing how D.C. United is much different from that group offensively, and do not see an offensive juggernaut that could score within the first 20 minutes to make things (to borrow from a Howard Stern phony phone caller) quite tenses.
I do think D.C. gets one, but I think Henry does something that Henry does to level the match and effectively seal the fate of the Black and Red with a 1-1 draw.
Adam M Taylor
The visitors will keep things tight and close to the chest and look to break on the counter, which will actually translate to lots of not-very-productive possession for both teams, and probably a scoreless first half, leaving United with lots to do in the second half. I think United get onto the scoreboard early in the second half, but the Black-and-Red will open themselves up in the process, and the Metros will sneak in their all-important road goal before the all-out push nets DC a couple more. In the end, our heroes fall just short, winning the game 3-1 but finishing the series 3-3 on aggregate and losing to the away goals tiebreaker. And now I need a shower.
I predict the loudest crowd ever, if the supporter groups coordinate something among themselves. And if the 12th man can get its act together for maximum effectiveness, we will see calls going our way and a midfield thriving off of our energy. I have no doubt that DCU can take care of business (and NYRB can be knocked off its game) with the right atmosphere at RFK. It has to be turned up to 11. It has to be rabid. Then we will see DC tie this series with two goals, force it to extra time, and Birnbaum score the winning goal off of a corner kick. It is all up to you, fans.
I'm expecting a tense opening period in which United has the better of play but NYRB generates the only half-chances on the break. United starts to create a look here or there - perhaps on a corner - but Bill Hamid makes at least one big save in the first 40 minutes. Just before halftime, Perry Kitchen cleans up a mess inside the area to put United up 1-0. The Red Bulls start to get inside their own heads, and after a couple near-misses United levels the aggregate score through Eddie Johnson. Both GKs come up big once before full time, and extra time plays out with increasing tension but few chances.
Both Hamid and Luis Robles save at least one PK, but Metros gonna Metro. I actually quite Luyindula's game, but I think he ends up skying the crucial penalty to send United through. Time is a flat circle, and NYRB will be sent to Carcosa like always.
While I think D.C. United is fully capable of getting the needed result to go through to the conference finals on aggregate, many factors will have to come together perfectly for it actually to happen. I foresee United getting the needed two goals, but I also see New York getting one on the counter--the Red Bulls just have too much talent playing too well right now to keep Henry, BWP, and company off the board. It will be a valiant effort, but in the end the Black-and-Red's 2-1 win will not be enough to overcome the leg 1 deficit.
The Red Bulls come into this with, apparently, a sizable group of traveling fans and the knowledge that they just have to hold on for 90 minutes. But I'm ready to believe that the Black-and-Red can do what it takes--a clean sheet and a few goals--to turn this one around. A scramble in front of New York's goal will see D.C. get the opener in the first half, and I'll spend halftime nervously telling anyone who will listen how nervous I am because nerves, I have them. In the second half, Eddie Johnson grabs the second goal, and I'm resigning myself to extra time until, beautifully, Nick DeLeon makes it 3-0 right at the end. See you in the Eastern Conference final, Revs.
Bill Hamid will put on a great show, Fabian Espindola and Chris Pontius will score goals, but so will Thierry Henry. A 2-1 victory for D.C. United, but not enough to move on to the next round of the playoffs.