It was a fantastic Sunday night at Red Bull Arena as a sold out crowd came to see the oldest rivalry in the league, going strong since 1996. The last time these two sides met down in our Nation’s Capital it was a Chris Pontius hat trick that took down the New York Red Bulls, and it looked early like it might happen again.
In the first minute of the match, Pontius headed in a great cross from Danny Cruz to give D.C. the early lead. Pontius’ near post run was perfectly timed as Cruz broke past Roy Miller down the United’s right side.
After putting loads of pressure on D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid after falling behind early, the Red Bulls benefited from a former D.C. man who came to play looking for some revenge. Brandon Barklage equalized for New York in the 20th minute, as he came out of nowhere into the middle of the area. He did his best Karate Kid move to volley home Joel Lindpere’s corner kick.
His second of the match came within the final moments of first half stoppage time, on another set piece. Ben Olsen was upset at referee Matt Geiger for not calling a foul on Barklage before he penalized a D.C player. The resulting free kick by Rafa Marquez was blocked by the wall, but a long looping rebound came towards Barklage. The former 3rd round SuperDraft pick wasted no time in ripping a low, hard shot past Hamid for his second.
“This is the date I circled on the calendar and I was going to give it 110%,” said Barklage. “Thankfully I got the two goals against the ex-team and it feels incredible. It took four years to get my goal and it was against a team that told me at the end of last year that I couldn’t cut it.”
The next man on the Red Bulls to get his first league goal was Jan Gunnar Solli. His came in the 55th minute to earn a two-goal advantage. Rafa Marquez completed a run down the far side and made a nice cross to Lindpere who found Solli. His first shot was saved by Hamid, but the rebound kissed off the far post and in.
Pontius pulled one back and scored his second of the night in the 66th minute to make the match a bit nervy. But when it was all said and done, the Red Bulls pulled even with DC United for the top of the Eastern Conference with a game in hand.
“I would say the first 55 minutes is probably the most complete we have ever played.” Said Head Coach Hans Backe,“ Absolutely phenomenal the first half and (after) the first 15-20 of the second, we half should have probably been three or four up. One way traffic, but it was one of our best performances.”
25,187 spectators jammed every seat from start to finish, including a strong support from the DC United faithful. The excitement poured onto the field as both sides gave a very entertaining display. But the ones who came out on top were the Red Bulls who needed the three points.