At the same venue where they went down to a 2-0 defeat in the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinal first leg, D.C. United once again slipped to a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, this time in the early stages of their 2015 MLS regular season.
Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam proved to be United’s torturers once again as they scored in each half, with the visitors offering only brief moments in response as Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch secured his first victory having taken charge in the offseason.
The home side’s opener was straightforward, as Dax McCarty’s lofted ball forward in the 25th minute took advantage of some poor communication between United defenders Bobby Boswell and Steven Birnbaum to find Wright-Phillips lurking. The Englishman made no mistake with a low finish past Bill Hamid to score his first of the 2015 season.
That seemed to sting United into life after an insipid beginning, as Chris Rolfe forced a diving save from Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, with the rebound cleared away before a visiting attacking player could sweep it home.
However, for much of the game D.C. looked like they really missed a proven goalscorer up front, with Fabian Espindola still suspended, Luis Silva still injured and Eddie Johnson’s career looking increasingly in jeopardy due to an unspecified medical condition. Jairo Arrieta and Chris Pontius continued to have good moments in attack, but struggled to find the kind of penetration necessary to create genuine opportunities.
Behind them, the visitors’ midfield struggled to assert themselves and was guilty of turning the ball over far too easily, and the halftime whistle was something of a relief as they retreated to the locker-room still only 1-0 down.
The second half started poorly, then in the 71st minute things got even worse for United as they found themselves 2-0 down. Davy Arnaud was pressured into giving the ball away in a dangerous position, from which the Red Bulls surged forward on the counter. Wright-Phillips was once again heavily involved, and his pass found Sam on the overlap, who powered home at the near post.
It was a disappointing passage of play for the away side, who could not get close to their opponents and then saw 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Bill Hamid beaten at his near post, something that will be hugely disappointing for the highly talented 22-year-old.
Taylor Kemp was brought on to try and inject some life into United’s attacks, and he forged one of the visitors’ best chances with just over 10 minutes left. He whipped a cross into the box that was met well by the sliding Rolfe, but once again Robles was on hand to unfurl a reflex save and prevent his side conceding.
As if to complete their misery, United were awarded a penalty in the closing stages after Arnaud was fouled by Matt Miazga, and would have thought it was the perfect chance to at least grab a consolation. However, Pontius completed a miserable outing as he skied the resulting spot-kick over the bar, with the referee blowing the final whistle shortly after.
In all, it was a tough result for the Black-and-Red to swallow, as they looked by far second-best to their long-time rivals. With several players still out, the depth in their squad will once again be called into question, and will be greatly tested once again next Saturday when they welcome the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy to RFK Stadium.
NYRB — Bradley Wright-Phillips (Dax McCarty) 25’
NYRB — Lloyd Sam (Bradley Wright-Phillips) 71’
DCU — Bobby Boswell (caution, foul) 78’
NYRB — Damien Perrinelle (caution, time wasting) 82’
New York Red Bulls XI: Robles; Duvall, Miazga, Perrinelle, Lawrence; McCarty, Felipe, Sam, Kljestan, Sizzo (Richards 65); Wright-Phillips (Abang 90+3).
Subs not used: Reynish, Ouimette, Stolz, Davis, Lade.
D.C. United XI: Hamid; Korb (Kemp 70), Boswell, Birnbaum, Franklin; Rolfe, Kitchen, Arnaud, DeLeon; Arrieta (Doyle 66), Pontius.
Subs not used: Dykstra, Opare, Mishu, Jeffrey.