Dwayne De Rosario's 61st-minute strike was all D.C. United needed to snap their five-game winless streak and defeated New York Red Bulls 1-0 Saturday night in Harrison, N.J. The win was United's first since their 3-2 road success against the Portland Timbers back on May 29 and temporarily vaulted United into 4th place in the Eastern Conference.
The winning goal came from a great piece of team passing and individual skill. De Rosario, who was traded from New York to D.C. for Dax McCarty on June 27, sold a wonderful dummy by stepping over an Andy Najar pass from the right flank. The ball ran to Josh Wolff, who sent a nicely weighted pass to the streaking De Rosario. The Canadian international took one touch with his right foot before smashing the ball off the inside of the right post and into the left-side netting with his left foot.
From there, United were able to frustrate Red Bulls for the final half-hour of the match, though it might have been a different story of Thierry Henry had taken advantage of the gift offered him by the United defense in the 50th minute. A loose pass from Daniel Woolard eluded Brandon McDonald and rolled into no-man's land. Henry got to the ball first, but he was matched stride-for-stride by Ethan White and his left-footed shot, deprived of some of its power, was palmed aside by Bill Hamid.
Playing on the road against the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls, D.C. United have proven equal to the task so far as the two teams go to the halftime break tied 0-0.
United had a chance to go ahead just before halftime when a through ball from Chris Pontius found Charlie Davies streaking beyond the home defense. Davies was able to get around New York keeper Greg Sutton, but the striker's shot from a tight angle was safely cleared behind by a hustling Tim Ream.
Prior to Davies' opportunity, New York had the better of the chances, however, and it's no surprise that two of their best have come from Thierry Henry. The Frenchman had a chance to put the home side on top in the 7th minute after receiving a neat little pass from Joel Lindpere, but Henry's left-footed shot slid well wide of Bill Hamid's left post. Henry had another chance in the 14th minute as a long ball from defenseman Tim Ream found the former Arsenal star a step ahead of Ethan White, but Henry's attempt to chip Hamid settled harmlessly on top of the net.
A lot has changed since the first meeting between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls ended in a 4-0 New York romp at RFK back on April 21. Most notably, the two sides swapped midfielders back on June 27, exchanging Dax McCarty and Dwayne De Rosario in a rarely-seen star-for-star trade. Saturday night, surrounded by their new teams, De Rosario and McCarty will face off in a crucial Eastern Conference match-up.
D.C. United (4-5-7) at New York Red Bulls (6-3-10)
New York Red Bulls: Hans Backe will have to make one change to his line-up as Teemu Tainio picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in Wednesday night's 5-0 win over Toronto and will serve a mandatory one-game suspension tonight. Mehdi Ballouchy is expected to take Taino's place and will play either left or central midfield, with Joel Lindpere sliding into the other spot (McCarty will take up the other central midfield position). One of Luke Rodgers or Juan Agudelo will lead the line for New York, with Thierry Henry playing in the hole as a roving pivot figure who can both distribute the ball from the left wing and drive into the penalty area to score himself. New York's back four should be settled with Jan Gunnar Solli moving forward down the right wing from his right back position, Tim Ream and Carlos Mendes as the center-backs (Mendes deputizing for the injured Rafael Marquez), and Roy Miller at left back.
Key To The Game
The First Half-Hour: Back in April, D.C. United were victimized by a 12th-minute goal by Henry and were forced to play from behind for the rest of the match. A similar early goal tonight might completely destabilize United and lead to a New York rout. The Black-and-Red's reshaped back line will be sorely tested on Saturday.