HARRISON, NJ – September 11th will live as a day of infamy in the United States, and 15 years later, citizens are still feeling the effects of the attacks.
Luckily we have sports. D.C. United and New York Red Bulls – both teams representing the two cities that were primary victims in the attacks of 9/11 – played the third match up of their rivalry this season. A beautiful memorial ceremony was held for the victims and families of the first responders that were killed during the attacks from both the Pentagon and Twin Towers.
In front of an inspired crowd, the Red Bulls and United did not disappoint, finishing with an exciting 2-2 draw.
For 89 minutes, the Red Bulls controlled the game. They put pressure on United goalie, Bill Hamid, but two lazy defensive possessions allowed United to score two goals in the final 5 minutes of the game, the second goal coming during stoppage time.
The Red Bulls missed out on an opportunity to tie for first place in the Eaatern Conference, but will have to settle for second, with 44 points. A victory would have tied them with first place, Toronto FC, who they will visit September 18th in a crucial Atlantic division matchup.
″It′s important to get one of the top two seeds,″ Red Bulls coach Jeff Marsch said after the game. ″It would have been nice to get the result tonight to go to Toronto and have us both tied, and [know] everything is on the line, but everything is still on the line in that game in Toronto. We′ve been looking at that game on the schedule for awhile, [we′re] really excited.″
Gonzalo Veron scored the first goal for the Red Bulls off a rebound in the 35' and Bradley Wright-Phillips finished a 1-on-1 fastbreak to give the Red Bulls a convincing 2-0 lead in the 54'.
The game started with both teams feeling each other like two boxers in a title bout. The Red Bulls made three early attempts to score first but missed on the opportunities. That was story for both teams early in the first half.
Robles was a brick wall for the Red Bulls, finishing with three saves on five shots on goal. Twice in the first half, he made a save during a 2-on-1 advantage for United, and until the 89th minute, Robles was almost flawless. Steve Birnbaum scored the first goal for very quietly with no team celebration, grabbing the ball out of the net and taking it to midline, looking to preserve every second. With 30 seconds remaining in stoppage, Lamar Neagle caught the ball off a rebound to tie the game, taking the air out of Red Bull Arena.
The only thing you heard at that point was loud screams from United′s bench.
″A point in the East right now, goes a long way,″ Ben Olsen said about stealing a point from the rivals.
United is one-point outside of the top six in the east with 33 points tied with New England Revolution. Consistency has been a problem for them all season, one week prior to this game losing to New York FC, giving up two goals in the final 10 minutes of the match. Coach Olsen feels that this game shows that his unit has ″character″.
″This will go a long way. We felt like we gave up some points last week [and] lose that game then come back with a response like this, it shows we have character″
Hamid was the energy that kept United′s chances alive but they also had luck on their side. While Hamid did the best he could with little help from his backline, Red Bull forward, Sasha Kijestan hit the pole twice on two different occasions. If Sasha puts one in the back of the net, Red Bulls win the game.
″It bothers me of course because I had two chances to bury the ball, unfortunately it missed by a couple inches both times. Hamid made a couple of good saves but I had him beat two times, just unfortunate it didn′t fall in the back of the net.″ Kijestan said.
United wins the rivalry and take home the Atlantic Cup, defeating the Red Bulls twice earlier in the season. United will take on the Chicago Fire September 16th, hoping to extend their playoff hopes one more game. They will need help from the Columbus Crew, who will take on sixth-place Orlando City SC that same weekend. With six games left, United is playing with the houses money and can′t afford to lose it.