United had a chance to go ahead in the 4th minute when Lionard Pajoy tried to redirect a right-wing cross from Nick DeLeon into the net, but New York goalkeeper Luis Robles threw himself at Pajoy's feet to block the attempt.
The home side nearly grabbed the lead 10 minutes later, but Markus Holgersson headed Thierry Henry's corner wide of Bill Hamid's net. Former United man Dax McCarty had a chance five minutes later when he got the ball on the right side of the penalty area, but Hamid was equal to the task and palmed the ball out of play for a corner.
In the 28th minute, New York enjoyed a sustained run at Hamid's net. Henry had one shot saved by Hamid, and another shot blocked by a defender before Joel Lindpere tried a shot that just slid wide of Hamid's left post.
Statistically, New York enjoyed slightly more possession in the first half (52.1 to 47.9 percent) and had more attempts on goal than D.C. (7-3) and more shots on target (2-1).