D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls renew the Atlantic Cup rivarly in the playoffs today. We are split on what will happen, so let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Which United will we see take the field Sunday? Most people were extremely happy at the gritty performance put forth Wednesday night, but still visions of Columbus are in the back of people's minds. Naturally, standing in our way once again are those...things...from up north. Is it Metro Playoff Fever time? My guess is no because we have the one thing that they don't: Bill Hamid on top of his game. Gimme 2-0 United in a shock outcome where our defense finally chips in to help Hamid get a clean sheet. Goals by Rolfe and Espindola send us to RFK North on the 8th with the upper hand.
I can't stand Dax McCarty. I'm sure he's a nice guy. So what's my problem with him? He doesn't give up. He's wily and full of energy. And he's not on our team. So we start with that midfield matchup. Can Kitchen and Halsti take care of Dax? They have to. They have no choice. Dax is going to be their greatest problem. Shut him down. Do that and you'll disrupt the deadly attacks that NYRB springs with Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips, which threaten to rip our backline to shreds. I'm going to follow my heart and say Kitchen and Halsti do their part. DC wins 2-1, with goals by DeLeon and Rolfe.
Those numbers represent the aggregate score in Metros/DCU matches this year, DCU's record at Red Bull Arena this year, and the number of points United earned off of the Metros this year in three matches. Things aren't looking good. Wednesday was quite a recovery from last weekend, but I am not convinced that this team has enough to advance, or even win this home leg. 2-1 Metros, with Espindola scoring on a free kick.
Adding onto the previous observation (and lazily cribbing from my prediction from these two teams two months ago), D.C. United has played six games at RBA since Nick DeLeon scored to knock the Metros out in 2012. They've scored 1 goal. In 2013. That's one more goal scored than I have at RBA. So they'll need two things at RFK, goals, and a solid defense. At RFK, with a less than healthy Chris Pontius? Not seeing it. 2-1 Metros, Fabian Espindola to Alvaro Saborio from a corner kick.
Am I worried about DCU against NYRB? You bet I am. (I'd be worried about DCU against a bubble soccer team TBH.) But I'm more worried about DCU at NYRB. It's true, of course, that the Black-and-Red were bad against their biggest rivals this season, but ever the optimist, I can believe that they'll rise to the occasion and do the work at home this time. What comes after that--I'd rather not think about it yet. Of course, United will concede because what even is a clean sheet anymore, but ultimately they prevail 2-1, goals from Rolfe and Espindola.
I'm so incredibly torn between my head and my heart. With the brains of our back four and our long-missing relentless drive of a wide midfielder both out for this first leg, things look less than bright for United's chances to get the kind of result they'll need before heading north to New Jersey. But we'll have Fabi for a Red Bulls game for the first time in 2015, and even with all the injuries and attacking struggles, we've averaged two goals a game in the friendly confines of RFK. And I really, really hate losing to the Metros. Alas, I'll predict a close but ultimately deflating 2-1 loss and, like my midweek prediction, hope to hell I'm wrong. Goals from Nick DeLeon (assist from Espindola), Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam.
I'm not worried about any home playoff game for United. Even with the bizarre penchant for conceding early, this team has been strong at RFK all season. The Red Bulls aren't going to come out and park the bus, either, so there will be plenty of opportunities for DC to meet or exceed their 2 goals scored per home game average. However, the tiebreaker in this case is away goals, and that's where I sense a problem. I see a thrilling United win on tap, but it points toward winning a battle but losing the war. Espindola, Saborio, and Birnbaum score for United, but only after Lloyd Sam opens the scoring with a goal inside the first 20 minutes. Just when thoughts of a 2 goal edge for the 2nd leg start to enter our collective thoughts, Bradley Wright-Phillips pokes home a goal thanks to some sloppy defending. 3-2 DCU, setting up a very difficult road trip next week.
D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls meet again in the playoffs, and these games are never calm. Give me a 2-1 win for United at home, and they'll be in a decent position heading to Jersey.