D.C. United spoiled the New York Red Bulls home opener on Saturday afternoon, earning a 0-0 draw largely through the spectacular efforts of their goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
The matchup was the first game on tap for Major League Soccer’s rivalry week and, despite the scoreline, provided more than its fair share of excitement.
New York clearly dominated the contest, out-possessing D.C. United 57 percent to 43 percent, respectively, and outshooting their rivals 24-4.
However, D.C.’s defense held strong through most of the contest and was saved from danger when it did break down through several spectacular efforts from Hamid.
Hamid’s remarkable effort had to be particularly satisfying for him after his bungled own-goal howler and sending off in last year’s D.C. United-New York playoff series nearly cost his team a chance at playing for the Eastern Conference championship.
Hamid was busy right from the get go, parrying away a beautiful effort from Thierry Henry in only the eighth minute.
Then, right before the half, Hamid had a nice punch on a long service into D.C. United’s box.
In the second half, Hamid picked up right where he had left off. In the 67th minute, he impressively swatted away a chance by Tim Cahill as Cahill got on the end of a beautiful Red Bulls cross to the back post.
Finally, in stoppage time, Hamid had his most important save, preserving the shutout with a stunningly athletic effort pawing a ball headed for the net off his own goal line.
For New York’s part, again despite the draw, they put together their best effort of the 2013 season on Saturday.
From the opening whistle, Henry was active, creating chances for himself and his teammates with superb runs, touches and passes.
However, both Henry and New York struggled throughout the game to take advantage of their opportunities.
In the 24th minute, Henry put in a cross for Fabian Espindola, but Espindola’s header was stopped by the crossbar.
In the 32nd minute, Henry got on the end of a long ball in behind D.C.’s defense, but took a poor first touch and lost the initiative.
In the 52nd minute, Henry put Espindola in on goal, but Espindola took his first touch into traffic and the chance was snuffed out by D.C. United.
In the 56th minute, Espindola brilliantly danced through two D.C. defenders in the area and hit a cracker of a shot—only to be denied once again by the crossbar.
In the 58th minute, Henry found himself in behind D.C.’s defense once again, but skied his left-footed attempt well over the goal.
In the 74th minute, Henry found himself behind D.C.’s defense for a third time, but Brandon McDonald was quick to recover and blocked Henry’s shot.
The combination of Espindola and Henry’s efforts should give the Red Bulls continued hope that they can have a successful season, but they are now winless in three games. And although Henry easily had his best game so far in the 2013 season, he looked frustrated with himself throughout the contest. He appeared to have the look of someone who is realizing that he can no longer play at the level that made him an international superstar.
Tim Cahill also continues to look like a shadow of his former self, being culpable on three of New York's biggest wasted chances of the night.
On a positive note for New York, midfielder Dax McCarty had a great game for the Red Bulls, breaking up D.C.’ attacks, starting possession out of the back for New York and even getting into the attack on several occasions.
D.C. United, despite earning the tie, has to be worried about their continued lack of offensive production so far in 2013. In three games, United has only scored one goal.
Even with the return from suspension of attacking midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United’s offense was non-existent for most of the match.
D.C. United only created two solid chances on the night.
In the 10th minute, Chris Pontius toe-poked a ball forward for De Rosario who was able to beat New York goalkeeper Luis Robles to the ball. However, Robles, outside his box, managed to stand De Rosario up long enough for help to arrive behind him.
D.C.’s other good chance came off another De Rosario-Pontius connection in the 59th minute when Pontius took a De Rosario pass and used a deft touch to turn the New York defense. However, Robles was once again quick off his line and smothered Pontius’ shot.
Both teams will be looking for better efforts as they head into Week Four.
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