Second-half goals from Luis Silva and Eddie Johnson helped D.C. United to a 2-0 victory over bitter rivals New York Red Bull this afternoon at sticky RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
The win for United (14-8-4, 46 points) extended their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference to four points over second place Sporting Kansas City and thirteen points over a trio of squads tied for third. The win also clinched the Atlantic Cup for United, a trophy made up especially for this rivalry. Red Bull had won three of the previous four Atlantic Cups before today’s win (in combination with an early season win) for the Black-and-Red.
United would dictate the terms early in the match on a steamy mid-afternoon kickoff. Fabian Castillo had a semi-breakaway but his low drive was parried out by Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles inside of the first five minutes. A pair of defensive miscues from the visitors would give United two more golden chances to take the lead but a poorly timed flop from Luis Silva and a hesitant shot from Nick DeLeon came to nothing for United.
United’s best and last chance in the first half came when Silva was sent through in combination with Espindola but his chip attempt was easily snared by a theatrical diving save from Robles.
Red Bull finally started to get themselves in gear and should have taken the lead in the 31st minute when MLS’ leading goalscorer Bradley Wright-Phillips found himself inside the six-yard area all alone but his header was expertly saved by red-hot goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Hamid would once again come up big at the end of the half when he would smother Lloyd Sam’s shot from ten yards through heavy traffic.
After the break the deadlock was finally broken in the 52nd minute, and it all started with Hamid. The goalkeeper’s long ball was nodded on by Espindola into the path of Silva who took advantage of a miscommunication between Robles and defender Ibrahim Sekagya and took a touch around the goalkeeper and easily slotted it home. The goal was Silva’s eight of the season, tying his previous total goal output over the past two seasons with Toronto FC and United.
Eddie Johnson, coming off the bench for the first time as a member of United, came on for Silva a few minutes after the go-ahead goal and immediately injected himself into the flow of the match. Johnson should have set Espindola up for a tap-in just seconds after being on the field but his well intentioned but ultimately flawed pass was behind him to kill that threat. Johnson also set up Chris Rolfe but his angled bid was well saved from Robles to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Red Bull would only really threaten once more the entire match and it was a half-chance at best when substitute Saer Sene came on and found himself in the middle of a scrum in the penalty area and and was unable to poke home the loose ball before United stalwart Perry Kitchen cleared the ball to safety.
Kitchen would factor into the insurance goal United would score in the 91st minute when he set Johnson loose on a breakaway. Johnson timed his flat run perfectly past a very tired Red Bull back four but still had work to do to grab the goal. Johnson’s first touch in open space was a controlling header that he nearly misplayed but ultimately got down to the ground. As he approached Robles, he chipped the ball over the prone goalkeeper but not before Robles got a slight hand on the shot. The ball still had enough juice on it to carry into the far side of the goal to give Johnson his fifth goal of the season and United comfort in pushing their rivals further away from them in the Eastern Conference.
After finishing a brutal 5-game in 15 day stretch, United will take the next two days off and return to training on Wednesday ahead of their match in Vancouver next Saturday evening. United will then have to come back East and take on this very same Red Bull team just four days later at Red Bull Arena.