There was the drive and determination of Fabian Espindola, but DC United needed more in game one of its MLS Eastern Conference semifinal. Instead the New York Red Bulls dictated the pace and rhythm of the game and secured a 1-0 win Sunday at RFK Stadium.
The important road goal that could serve as tiebreaker was secured by the Red Bulls on a set piece in the 72nd minute. Midfielder Sasha Kljetsan delivered a perfect free kick 30 yards from goals that was headed home from close range by an unmarked 5-8 Dax McCarty.
The winning goal came just three minutes after a strong United offensive push was stopped by Red Bulls defender Ronald Zubar’s lunging challenge on Markus Halsti. Zubar received a yellow card, but it could be argued he should have been sent off.
United could have used a man advantage on the Red Bulls, but that is not why the Black and Red suffered defeat. The Red Bulls were the team with more ideas including 58 percent possession and nine shots on target. Overall the Red Bulls had an 18-9 advantage in shots and their goalkeeper Luis Robles did not record one save.
- It is not over, but United has to force the issue. United is going to have to find a way to get more players involved in its attack. Alvaro Saborio failed to put on frame two excellent chances and needs to be more precise. As always for the entire match Fabian Espindola picked and probed and tried to ignite United’s attack. There needs to be more from United and that includes its players in the center of midfield. It was far too comfortable for the Red Bulls on Sunday and they were able to use a set piece goal to finish the perfect scenario for them in the opener of two-leg series. Stirring its offense will be a challenge for United. United is the only team in the MLS playoffs to allow more goals than it scored.
- Defense is not the question. The Red Bulls could have scored three goals, but as he has done so many times in 2015 United goalkeeper Bill Hamid gave United a chance and finished with eight saves. With 62 goals in the regular season the Reds Bulls had the league’s best offense. United was equal to the task in their series opener against the Red Bulls and its defense will give them a chance in the second leg this Sunday on the road. A chance only if United finds a way to generate more offense and make the Red Bulls defend more.