MLS Playoffs: DC United Advances in Fitting Second Leg to First's Fiasco

Paul MillerContributor IIINovember 9, 2012

HARRISON, NJ - NOVEMBER 08:  Joe Willis #31 and Marcelo Saragosa #11 of DC United celebrate after defeating the New York Red Bulls during the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Red Bull Arena on November 7, 2012 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

United's Nick DeLeon scored the game's only goal on a through ball in the 88th minute of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals between D.C. United and New York Red Bulls.

With the win at New York's Red Bull Arena, D.C. United will go on to face Houston in the conference finals.

The thing about that goal is D.C. had been trying to work through balls all night. However, the Red Bulls had their offsides trap working to perfection. New York had caught United runners six times prior to the 88th minute.

For Ben Olsen's Black and Red, the seventh was a charm, as Robbie Russell found DeLeon unshackled from the tyranny of line judges.

This was a playoff series for the books. It featured pretty much everything imaginable, and that was just the first leg. The second picked up where the first left off, especially considering it was supposed to be played Wednesday night.

After toggling the schedule because of Hurricane Sandy, MLS made a last-minute decision to postpone the second leg 24 hours because of Nor'Easter Athena. That second storm was dumping snow on the field faster than grounds crews could shovel it off. 

MLS Commissoner Don Garber issued a written apology for the turn of events.

The series resumed tonight instead. After an initial threat by United's Lionard Pajoy in the opening minutes of play, New York controlled play for much of the game. The Red Bulls pressured the D.C. goal throughout the evening.

New York impressed in every statistical category. The Red Bulls had the advantage in time of possession. They had 10 more shots. They had more shots on target, including a penalty in the second half. 

That penalty was saved by United's backup keeper, Joe Willis. Willis came on to face it because it was Bill Hamid's red-cardable foul that conceded the penalty.

Willis walked on the field, stared down Kenny Cooper, and watched the New York leading scorer bury the kick.

Referee Mark Geiger waved it off, as Thierry Henry had entered the box early.

On Cooper's second try, Willis made the biggest save in both teams' respective seasons.

Much like the own-goal fiasco in the first leg, this game featured back-to-back red cards. Only six minutes after Hamid was sent off, New York's Rafael Marquez picked up his second yellow.

Both benches rode a roller coaster of emotion, albeit in different directions.

New York's Hans Backe was snake bit, watching his side squander the chance at a penalty for the lead in the tied aggregate score (as D.C. had done in the first leg), and then squander the man advantage.

United's Ben Olsen made the opposite trip from despair to thoughts of destiny. The remainder of the game followed script, and DeLeon fulfilled that promise a short time later.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.