The New York Red Bulls exacted a double dose of revenge in defeating archrivals D.C. United in front of a sold-out crowd of 25,187 at Red Bull Arena on Sunday night.
Red Bulls right back Brandon Barklage scored his first two career goals against his former club and teammate Jan Gunnar Solli scored the eventual game-winner as the Red Bulls erased an early 1-0 deficit and dished out payback for a 4-1 road loss suffered at the hands of United in April.
The result puts the Red Bulls even on points with United atop the Eastern Conference, with DC ahead on goal difference and New York having a game in hand.
United got off to a flying start in the match, taking a quick lead after 30 seconds when an unmarked Pontius headed home a cross from the right by Danny Cruz. Pontius got free of his mark and easily beat goalkeeper Ryan Meara from close range at the near post to quiet the record Red Bull Arena crowd.
The Red Bulls did not wither, however. With Thierry Henry on the bench to start the match, NYRB proceeded to dominate much of the possession after the early Pontius goal and created several quality looks of their own, forcing United goalkeeper Bill Hamid into several saves.
The equalizing goal finally came in the 20th minute. Joel Lindpere whipped in a quality ball from a corner kick on the left that an onrushing Barklage struck with an acrobatic flying kick to beat Hamid. The goal was Barklage’s first MLS career goal.
The Red Bulls continued to push and kept United pinned deep in their own half for most of the opening 45 minutes. The visitors enjoyed success on the counter but New York managed to keep them off the board, which opened the door for Barklage’s second goal just before halftime.
Barklage punished his former team again to make it 2-1 in favor of the hosts seconds before the intermission, hitting a right-footed volley from 19 yards out after a disputed free kick was momentarily cleared away by United.
The momentum from that finish carried over into the second half despite United subbing in Maicon Santos for Hamdi Salihi and New York added to their lead in the 55th minute.
A low cross from Lindpere was sent in from the left and found Solli, who fired a shot that Hamid saved. But the Norwegian was first to pounce on the rebound, knocking in a left-footed effort against the near post for his first MLS career goal.
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 great through ball. Pontius rounded a rushing Meara and then easily tapped the ball home to trim New York’s lead to 3-2 although replays showed that he may have been offside on the play.
That was as close as D.C. United got, however, with the Red Bulls holding onto their slim lead.
The Red Bulls and D.C. United return to league play next Saturday against Canadian opposition. New York visit BMO Field to take on Eastern Conference cellar dwellers Toronto FC on June 30, while United host the expansion Montreal Impact.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)