The weather put on its own show on Sunday at RFK Stadium, but D.C. United almost topped that in the second half, scrambling out of a two goal deficit to earn a point in a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls. Needing a point to keep pace with Orlando City for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East, United were spurred on by goals in a three minute span from Marcelo Sarvas and Patrick Mullins.
Bradley Wright-Phillips gave the Red Bulls a late first half lead with his 15th goal of the season, before Felipe Martins doubled the advantage with a strike in the 65th minute. Marcelo got United back into the game from the penalty spot in the 70th minute after Lloyd Sam won a penalty against his former club, and Mullins tied it three minutes later with a header from a corner.
As Ben Olsen returned to the sideline following his one game suspension, United played the same 11 that beat the Portland Timbers 2-0 last week.
Sam, playing for the first time against his former club, had a cross skip through the box in the 3rd minute that only lacked the final touch from a teammate for the opening goal. Jared Jeffrey then fired over a minute later, before referee Ismail Elfath signaled a stoppage due to lightning in the area. A weather delay of 1 hour and 12 minutes ensued, featuring a massive downpour.
The players came back to a water-logged field, one that would wreak havoc on the game for the remaining 81 minutes. Attempts to clear the field of standing water had modest success, as the players struggled to judge whether the ball would stop in the water or not.
Wright-Phillips got opened down the left to create the first chance whence the game restarted, getting the ball into the box to send a cross in. The first attempt was blocked, but the second attempt found Alex Muyl near the penalty spot. The rookie winger shot first-time, but his attempt was wide.
United should have gone ahead in the 15th minute, as Patrick Nyarko had a wide open header on the door step. Taylor Kemp kept a chance alive for the Black-and-Red by pumping a long ball out wide for Sam. Sam lifted a beautiful cross just in front of goal, where Nyarko was unmarked. With just Robles to beat, Nyarko nodded his header across the face of goal and wide.
A minute later, Wright-Phillips had his first sight at goal, as he collected a long free kick in the box. Holding off a challenge from Bobby Boswell, Wright-Phillips was able to get a shot away, but Boswell recovered in a timely fashion for the crucial block.
Muyl missed the target again in the 22nd minute, this time collecting a free kick from Aurelien Collin before rifling a shot over Bill Hamid’s goal. Then Marcelo tried a bit of beach soccer magic, flicking the ball up to himself, and bicycling a pass to Luciano Acosta in the box. Acosta quickly crossed to the far post, but Nyarko again failed to direct his header on target.
Acosta couldn’t trouble Luis Robles in goal for the Red Bulls from range in the 29th minute, and Sacha Kljestan’s dipping volley in the 34th was over the target from the top of the box.
But then the field came into play, as Sean Franklin misplayed a ball in the lead up to Wright-Phillips' 15th goal of the season. Franklin overran a ball just in front of his own box, which allowed Mike Grella to make a quick break into the box. With United’s back line scrambling, Grella picked out BWP, who was alone in front of goal for the 1-0 lead.
The Red Bulls came out stronger to start the second half, with two crosses just missing their targets in the box. First, right back Chris Duvall was the creator in the 46th minute, before Muyl replicated the effort in the 54th minute.
Nyarko again failed to direct a header on target in the 57th minute, this time from another Acosta cross at the far post. And then after collecting a pass from Felipe and getting into the box, Kljestan tried to scoop a shot over Hamid, but the effort sailed just wide.
Acosta had a shot blocked by Felipe on the break in the 60th minute, with the follow up effort from Marcelo saved by Robles. United kept up the brief spell of pressure, ending with Mullins sending a weak looping header into Robles’ mitts in the 64th minute.
That set the stage for Felipe’s 5th goal of the season, as New York were up two goals with his finish in the 65th minute. Wright-Phillips turned creator this time, getting into the box near the end line, crossing back into the middle. His cross seemed destined to not find a teammate, but also rolled far enough away from United's defense to prevent a clearance. Felipe popped up at the top of the box, and fired a left footed shot past Hamid at the near post.
Nick DeLeon came on right afterwards for Jeffrey, and nearly got United back in the game immediately. His first effort was pushed wide by a diving Robles, with United unable to convert on the resulting corner. Then DeLeon skied one over, after Sam played a ball in the box for the midfielder. The shot may have glanced off of Ronald Zubar, but Elfath gave a goal kick.
Sam then won the crucial penalty in the 70th minute for United, as he raced onto a Mullins knockdown header in the box, and was bundled over by Kemar Lawrence. Marcelo stepped up to the spot, and even though Robles went the right way, he couldn’t prevent the Brazilian veteran from scoring his first of the season.
The dust had hardly settled when Mullins got D.C. level with his second goal for the Black-and-Red. Kemp whipped in a 73rd minute corner, allowing Steve Birnbaum - who had scored in consecutive weeks - to head back into the middle. Mullins was there all alone, directing his header to even the score at 2-2.
Neither team looked too threatening as the game wore down, but Wright-Phillips was played in behind the defense in the 89th minute by Kljestan. Wright-Phillips elected to shoot early with just Hamid to beat. But the effort was weak, and Hamid collected the bouncing shot.
The final opportunity came to Kemp in the third minute of stoppage time, as DeLeon moved a throw-in quickly from right to left. Kemp stepped around the first challenge, and then took aim with his weaker right foot. Unfortunately for United, the powerfully-struck shot whistled just wide of goal, leaving both teams with a share of the spoils.
United, with 28 points from 24 games, return to action on Wednesday, heading north to Canada to face off against the Montreal Impact.