With 2014 playoff disappointment still fresh in their minds, D.C. United headed up to Red Bull Arena on Sunday looking for a measure of revenge against bitter rivals, New York Red Bulls. Instead, an abject performance for most of the 90 minutes meant a 2-0 defeat, which was bookend by a missed penalty from Chris Pontius in stoppage time.
Head coach Ben Olsen named an unchanged lineup from the one that defeat the Montreal Impact two weeks ago, but Miguel Aguilar was mysteriously scratched from the subs bench before the game, leaving United with just six subs. That scratch seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day, in which the Red Bulls were able to cruise throughout.
The Red Bulls got an early start to the proceedings, as New York worked one of their many corner routines early in the game. Sal Zizzo sent a low skipping ball in from the corner, allowing midfielder Sacha Kljestan to gather, but the American ultimately fire wide after turning in the box.
Nick DeLeon had a small sight at goal moments later, after New York failed to deal with a Chris Rolfe free kick from distance. The ball eventually fell to DeLeon, but his strike hit a teammate on the way towards the goal.
Another New York short corner routine in the 13th minute saw Zizzo and Felipe get the ball out to Lloyd Sam with time and space. His delicately hit chip found the head of fellow Englishman Bradley Wright-Phillips, but the header fell harmlessly into the arms of Bill Hamid.
It was Wright-Phillips, who won the Golden Boot in 2014, who opened the scoring for New York in the 25th minute. Dax McCarty was given space near midfield, and looped a ball over the center defending pairing of Steve Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell. Wright-Phillips did well to knock the ball down to himself in the box, and then fired a shot that skipped around Birnbaum and under Hamid for the 1-0 lead.
United finally had a decent look at goal in the 33rd as United quickly worked a throw in up the field, with the help of hold up play from Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rican chested a ball back to Davy Arnaud, who quickly played Rolfe into the box. But the midfielder's angled shot was parried away by Luis Robles, and the Red Bulls were able to clear their lines.
Back the other way, New York quickly broke, and a long ball to Wright-Phillips allowed him to find Felipe at the top of the box. Felipe's shot was well taken, but just missed wide.
The second half got off to a slower start, and while United weren't having any luck creating for themselves, the chances at the other end diminished as well. It wasn't until the 61st minute until either team had a real chance, when Sean Franklin's long cross was knocked down by Pontius for Rolfe. Rolfe was well positioned to get a shot on frame, but the shot went straight to Robles.
Minutes later, Rolfe got a flick on a header from a Chris Korb cross, but was just beyond the reach of a streaking Arrieta, and bounced just wide of the back post.
Any designs of United getting something from the match were just about extinguished in the 71st minute, as Sam doubled the lead for New York. Arnaud's poor turnover in United's half allowed Wright-Phillips to pick up the ball, and find Sam out wide. With Hamid possibly cheating towards the middle looking for a cross, Sam lashed the ball home at the near post for the 2-0 lead.
Rolfe did though nearly find that way back in for United, but Robles came to New York's rescue. Taylor Kemp - who had minutes earlier entered for Korb - sent a lovely cross in from the left, in which Rolfe really only needed to get a touch on to score. He succeeded in beating Kemar Lawrence to the ball, but Robles was well positioned to make the point blank save to keep United off the board.
Sam had two more chances in the final ten minutes to add to his total, as New York looked to turn the game into a rout. Fortunately for United, Sam first fired narrowly wide from an angle, and then had Hamid deny him with a foot save just before the end of the 90 minutes to keep the score 2-0.
Stoppage time then got a bit interesting for United, as Arnaud won a penalty kick for United after getting tripped up by Matt Miazga. Pontius stepped up to take the penalty, but he fired well over (possibly into the Passaic River?), confirming United's miserable day.