The New York Red Bulls took home a massive 1-0 win on the road against DC United in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semi-final.
Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty scored the only goal in the second half after an opening 45 minutes that saw very little action. However the visitors exploded into life on the restart, forcing Bill Hamid to make some key saves, and Kemar Lawrence hitting the post.
The hosts started the Playoff first leg on the right foot, putting early pressure on the New York Red Bulls defense in the early stages of the match, but the hosts failed to find a real chance to test Luis Robles in the opening ten minutes.
The Red Bulls have been the dominate side in this rivalry for the past few seasons, however the Supporters Shield champions struggled during the opening stages of this game, as the visitors looked confused and lost, and the New Jersey team had to defend for a majority of the opening 15 minutes.
The half was filled with good opportunities for both sides, but neither team took their chances right as they was not a single shot on target until the 33rd minute when Hamid was called into action for the first time to pull off a big save from close range to deny Mike Grella with a good block.
Grella’s shot proved to be the only shot on target in a poor first half that was highlighted when a DC fan ran onto the pitch in the 37th minute, before being taken down by the security.
The second half kicked off, and the restart offered us what the first half didn’t, excitement, as Hamid was forced to make a save just two minutes into the second half when the Red Bulls played a cross come shot, that Hamid had to react too, and the American keeper parried the ball away.
There was an element of concern for the Red Bulls in the 49th minute when Damien Perrinelle landed awkwardly when meeting a ball in the air, and the defender went down in a heap. After a lengthy spell receiving treatment, the Frenchman was carted off, and Ronald Zubar came on in his absence.
The second half continued to offer drama when Hamid came to DC’s rescue in the 57th minute when Grella’s header from close range forced DC’s number one to pull off a fantastic save, as Hamid palmed the header away with a great one-handed save.
Lawrence was next to try and get the Red Bulls the vital away goal when the Jamaican full back sprinted down the left wing with ease, before lashing a vicious shot towards goal that smashed off the post.
Hamid put up a good fight, but in the 71st minute the Red Bulls captain, Dax McCarty, finally beat the keeper. A simple set-piece from Sacha Kljestan from outside the box was met by McCarty, and the midfielder nudged the ball into the back of the net with the heard to give New York the lead.
DC tried to get back into the game late on, but the hosts could not break down the tight Red Bulls defense, and DC ended the match without registering a single shot on target.
New York now have a massive advantage going into the second leg next week, and with the away goal ruling, DC must now score two at the Red Bull arena in order to progress to the Eastern Conference final.