Despite loss, Red Bulls advance past DC to Conference Final

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by ERIC GIACOMETTI
Staff Writer

This is one loss the New York Red Bulls will be glad to take.

After dispatching D.C. United 2-0 at Red Bull Arena, Peguy Luyindula managed to tally a vital away goal in a 2-1 loss with their long-time rivals.

Yet another chapter of the storied Atlantic Cup rivalry has been written as New York finally got the best of United and advanced to the Eastern Conferference final against their foes for the first time in franchise history.

“This is a series that in years past we would have lost,” Red Bulls boss Mike Petke said. “These guys showed determination—we had guys with a bloody lip, guys getting stitches and a guy with a lump on his head—these guys gave it their all and I’m really proud of them and they earned the right to be in the conference finals.”

New York came into Saturday’s fixture in confident position thanks to their result in the first leg of the series, but a relentless D.C. United side pushed them to the limit, making for some nervy moments in the early going.

The home side struck first to put the pressure on New York as Nick DeLeon halved the deficit in the 37th minute. With the ball wide left, United fullback Taylor Kemp sent an inch-perfect cross into the box where DeLeon wriggled free and headed home from close range.

At the break, United seemed to be the side in the ascendency needing only a goal to level the affair. But the French connection that powered the Red Bulls in the first leg did much of the same in 57th minute. After a quiet first half by his lofty standards, Thierry Henry needed just a few touches to leave his mark on the match as he served in a ball centrally. Peguy Luyindula was once again the beneficiary of his service as his redirected effort found its way past Bill Hamid to restore New York’s two-goal aggregate advantage.

Now needing three goals to advance, United saw a lifeline come their way in the form of an ejection in the 78th minute. New York defender Roy Miller—having already guaranteed his exclusion from his side’s next match after picking up a yellow card—was issued a straight red card following a dangerous challenge on United’s Sean Franklin. Miller will now miss both legs of the Eastern Conference Finals.

With the match nearing its conclusion, Franklin managed to give United fans some hope with a stoppage-time strike that gave United the lead on the evening, but it wasn’t enough to stave off elimination.

The 3-2 aggregate result sees New York past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since reaching MLS Cup in 2008, where they ultimately fell to the Columbus Crew.

“This one goes to the fans because I’m sure they had enough of that, losing to DC, but on a personal point of view, and I’m sure it is the same with them, we haven’t done anything yet,” Henry said.

The Red Bulls now await the result of the New England-Columbus matchup, as the winner will travel to Red Bull Arena for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, November 23rd.