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Preview: D.C. United vs New York Red Bulls

Atlantic Cup and playoff positioning on the line Wednesday night at RFK

MLS MATCHDAY 26

D.C. United vs New York Red Bulls

Saturday, August 29 - 8:00 PM ET
TV: Galavision

On the back end of a cramped – but pivotal - stretch in theclub’s schedule, D.C. United’s players are becoming experts in the art ofmoving on quickly.  Just as therewas little time to celebrate last Wednesday’s home win against Chicago, theBlack-and-Red are already long past this Saturday’s defeat in Montreal. 

The short-term amnesia is because, as D.C. midfielder ChrisPontius put it in the moments following the weekend’s loss, there is a ‘massive’match at RFK on Wednesday night.

“We’ve forgotten that already,” said Andy Najar, when askedabout the 3-0 result against the Impact. “There’s a more important game Wednesday.  We are going in with the full intention of taking all threepoints.”

The three points would be a boost for United’s playoffhopes, which have taken a slight blow over the past weeks.  Although Montreal has played three moretimes than D.C., the loss to the Impact pulled the expansion side within apoint of United for the Eastern Conference’s final postseason spot.  A Columbus Crew side inspired by thearrival of Designated Player Federico Higuain is also poised to make a run atBen Olsen’s side.

The second-year coach wouldn’t have it any other way.

“This was our goal from the start,” Olsen said of the club’sdesire to break a four-year postseason hex.  “It was our goal midway through the season and it is ourgoal now down the stretch.  We’veput ourselves in a position to do that but only if we continue some of the goodthings that we’ve done up to this point.”

Many of those good things took place in the first meetingthis season between D.C. and New York. The Black-and-Red were dominant, crushing the visitors in a 4-1 win atRFK.  The Red Bulls repaid thefavor on the return visit to New Jersey, where Hans Backe’s group turned in aperformance that the Swedish coach later qualified as the ‘most complete’ hisside had ‘ever’ played.

As a result of that 3-2 Red Bulls victory, Wednesday’s matchbecomes a winner-take-all battle for the coveted Atlantic Cup.

“We let them have the better of the possession in the firsthalf of the last game we played them,” acknowledged Pontius, who has five goalsin two meetings with New York this season.  “We didn’t keep the ball that well, and that changed thegame for them.  Hopefully we canlook to play a little bit more here at home.”

United’s recent home form would suggest that Pontius andcompany are likely to improve upon their performance from that late-Junedefeat.  The Black-and-Red have notlost at RFK since March 10, compiling a 9-1-3 record in Southeast Washingtonthis season. 

Tickets for Wednesday's match are available online: Join Olsen's Army

» ANALYSIS: Volkswagen Keys to the Match

» Create and share your starting XI

REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. AR1 (bench): Peter Manikowski; AR2 (opposite): Craig Lowry; 4th: Ted Unkel

MLS Career: 156 games; FC/gm: 27.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 45; pens: 57  

INJURY REPORT:
D.C. UNITED – OUT: MF Lance Rozeboom (L knee ACL tear); DF Robbie Russell (L plantar fasciitis); DF Daniel Woolard (concussion-like symptoms); DOUBTFUL: FW Maicon Santos (R toe soreness); PROBABLE: MF Lewis Neal (L adductor strain)
NEW YORK RED BULLS – OUT: DF Rafa Marquez (L calf strain); GK Ryan Meara (hip injury) 

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none 

WARNINGS:

 SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD:
NY: Joel Lindpere

SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS:
DC: Maicon Santos, Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Najar, Dejan Jakovic, Lionard Pajoy, Bill Hamid
NY: Kenny Cooper, Connor Lade, Victor Palsson 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (58 meetings): United 31 wins (1 shootout), 114 goals … Red Bulls 20 wins (1 shootout), 85 goals …Ties 7
  • AT RFK (30 meetings): United 18 wins (1 shootout), 65 goals … Red Bulls 9 wins (1 shootout), 47 goals … Ties 3
  • 2012 (MLS)
  • 4/22: DC 4, NY 1 (Pontius 8, 32, 69; DeLeon 36 – Henry 72)
  • 6/24: NY 3, DC 2 (Barklage 20, 47+; Solli 55 – Pontius 1, 66)
  • The teams are meeting for a third time this season. On April 14, a hat trick from Chris Pontius and a Nick DeLeon strike led to a 4-1 United victory at RFK Stadium. On June 24, Pontius scored twice again, but Brandon Barklage netted twice against his former club and Jan Gunnar Solli added the winner as the Red Bulls took a 3-2 home victory.
  • The Red Bulls had won their last two visits to RFK Stadium in dominant fashion, scoring six goals without reply. The Red Bulls’ 2-0 win in May 2010 was their first in the nation’s capital since 2005.
  • The Red Bulls have won the Atlantic Cup the last two years, with three wins in the 10 years it has been contested. New York first won in 2003. Goal difference is the first tie-breaker, followed by away goals; if still tied, the Red Bulls (as holders) will retain the cup.
  • Coaches' records: Ben Olsen v NY: P4 W2 L2 D0 … Hans Backe vs. DC: P6 W3 L2 D1

LAST MEETING

  • United got off to a flying start, taking the lead after just 31 seconds when an unmarked Chris Pontius headed home a cross from the right by Danny Cruz. It was the earliest goal scored in a game in D.C. club history.
  • The Red Bulls drew even in the 20th minute. Joel Lindpere whipped in a quality ball from a corner on the left that an onrushing Brandon Barklage struck with an acrobatic flying kick to beat United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
  • Barklage then his for his second goal just before halftime, punishing his former team again by striking a sensational right-footed volley from 19 yards out after a free kick was blocked by the United wall.
  • New York added to their lead in the 55th minute. A low cross from Lindpere was sent in from the left and found Jan Gunnar Solli, who fired a shot that Hamid saved. But the Red Bulls midfielder was first to pounce on the rebound, knocking in a left-footed effort off the near post.
  • United got themselves back into it 11 minutes later. Pontius scored his fifth of the season against the Red Bulls when Santos fed him a seeing-eye through ball, and rounded a rushing Meara before easily tapping home.
  • NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-4-1-1): Ryan Meara - Brandon Barklage, Heath Pearce, Rafa Marquez (Stephen Keel 87), Roy Miller (Victor Palsson 76) - Jan Gunnar Solli, Joel Lindpere (Thierry Henry 69), Dax McCarty, Connor Lade - Mehdi Ballouchy, Kenny Cooper.
  • D.C. UNITED (4-3-1-2): Bill Hamid - Robbie Russell, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard - Danny Cruz (Branko Boskovic 59), Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon (Andy Najar 70) - Dwayne De Rosario - Chris Pontius, Hamdi Salihi (Maicon Santos 46).