RFK Stadium was rocking on Saturday evening as DC United took on an also struggling New York Red Bull side. Both the DC and New York clubs have had slow starts to their 2012/13 campaign and Saturday night proved another interesting contest. First and foremost, from the first six matches of DC's season, the side have only claimed a mere two goals. As their offensive woes continue to plague the nations capital, Ben Olsen must possibly look to a new system to engage all of their players in the match. Credit to New York however, as Mike Petke offered forward a very sturdy effort from his men, whom capitalized on their chances which provided for a crucial three points.
For the Red Bulls, Juninho was sound in the midfield as he was able to link with Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry but also retain possession with Dax McCarty. In the first half, the Brazilian seemed very confident in DC's final third which continued to take away from DC being able to create any attacking play. Although Marcos Sanchez was able to venture forward for the Black & Red, Olave was seemingly always in the mixer, clearing driven balls away from danger. Another area of concern for Ben Olsen in the first stanza was New York's ability to push his side back into their own half. Perry Kitchen is a defensive minded midfielder who likes to sit in front of the center backs; however, in recent weeks has resorted to sitting too far back. Much like Paul Scholes did during his prime for Manchester United, Scholes was a defensive genius while also producing plenty of play in the final third from the Red Devils. Thus, Kitchen although still a youngster in the MLS, needs to develop an attacking prowess and link with Chris Pontius and Lionard Pajoy.
In the first half, New York retained the majority of the possession and chances although Pajoy and Rafael did offer much more attacking play than in recent weeks. As both struggling MLS sides searched for the opening goal of the match (and captain Dwayne De Rosario did not feature in the starting XI), another area of concern for the Black & Red is the play from Pontius. After becoming one of United's most prized attackers last season, in the opening six matches of the season has gone missing in matches and has yet to tally a goal. DC will need Pontius to rediscover his form as his side only have scored twice in the opening five matches of this season.
Just as DC began to find a footing in the match, in the 29th minute Thierry Henry netting a cracking strike past Bill Hamid – who should have done better to parry the ball away. The former Barcelona and Arsenal man was the benefactor of Dax McCarty's unselfish hold up play which seemed to stun both McDonald and Jakovic who stood too deep allowing the Red Bulls hit man to finish calmly. The lead nearly doubled in the 36th minute after another point-blank save made by Hamid on Tim Cahill who headed a perfectly weighted cross into the body of the goalkeeper.
After numerous attempts to beat the in form DC United goalkeeper once again, in the 36th minute defender Jamison Olave was able to thigh a cross off an initial header from Barklage past a stunned Hamid. Olave's goal came as his third of the season this year and was made possible by a DC United defense that was resting on their laurels and stagnant allowing the defender to pounce. The two goal deficit that DC found themselves in at the end of the first half was a direct result from the Red Bulls ability to attack with menacing pace, which took the wind right out of United's sails.
The second half proved much like the first in terms of DC's lack of attacking gusto. Dwayne De Rosario was introduced early in the second half for Rafael which saw him play up top with Pajoy in hopes of finding a goal or two. As DC were trying to get their season going, a frustrated Ben Olsen was stuck on the bench with a sullen look about his sides performance. On the other hand, Mike Petke's side were able to successfully shut down Carlos Ruiz (entered the match in the 64th). The Black & Reds best chance of the match came in the 72nd minute off a free kick in which Robles saved expertly and then saved Ruiz's rebound effort as well to keep the visitors in a comfortable lead.
The last fifteen minutes of the match saw DC become increasingly frustrated. As the angst began to set in from both the eleven on the field and Olsen from the sidelines, the finishing touch just could not be produced. The Red Bulls gave away a late winner against the Chicago Fire in their last contest and would not allow for the match to get away from them. Overall, the win comes as Petke's first on the road as a head coach – and will certainly not be his last. The fortress that was RFK Stadium last season has ceased to exist this season, and will likely offer for a spirited performance next weekend.
Final Score: DC United 0 – 2 New York (Henry, Olave)
My DC United Man of the Match: Dejan Jakovic
DC United's Next Match: versus Philadelphia Union at RFK Stadium (5pm) on ESPN2
(image courtesy of newyorkredbulls.com)