The first playoff match at RFK Stadium in five years had it all as the New York Red Bulls tied D.C. United 1-1 in a wild Eastern Conference semifinal first leg on Saturday night.
Two own goals, a saved penalty kick and a player ejected for throwing the ball at the referee were just some of highlights in an event-filled match as the long-time rivals move into Wednesday night's second leg at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night (8 pm ET, NBC Sports Network).
New York defender Roy Miller and DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid put the ball in their own net in a span of five minutes in the second half to decide a match that was switched earlier this week from Red Bull Arena to RFK following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy on New York and New Jersey.
But the drama began in the first half when United were awarded the first golden opportunity of the evening after NY defender Connor Lade was called for a handball in the box when his right arm clipped an offering from Branko Boskovic.
The ensuing penalty was taken by United’s leading scorer Chris Pontius, who struck the ball hard, but New York goalkeeper Luis Robles guessed right and the ball was cleared in the 33rd minute.
That was nothing compared to what happened in the second half. Miller’s own goal in the 60th minute gave United a momentary 1-0 lead. The Costa Rican left back, a second-half substitute, was running alongside Nick DeLeon and attempted to clear a ball sent into the box by Perry Kitchen but he sent his clearance directly into the top corner of his own goal.
The lead didn’t last long because United committed an own goal of their own five minutes later. With NY defender Markus Holgersson standing directly in front of Hamid, DC’s netminder jumped to corral a header by Heath Pearce and fell into his own net while holding the ball. Hamid sprinted toward midfield to argue that he was fouled on the play, but to no avail.
Things got even wilder when United’s youngest player lost his cool in the 71st minute. Right back Andy Najar was issued a double yellow and will miss the second leg of this playoff series after throwing the ball at referee Jair Marrufo.
Najar was unhappy with the referee's call when he was whistled and cautioned for a foul on Lindpere. As he backpedaled toward his own end, Najar tossed the ball right at Marrufo, who did not hesitate in issuing a second yellow.
Despite playing against a 10-man DC side – which now is unbeaten in 17 straight home matches – the Red Bulls were unable to capitalize on the advantage in the final 19 minutes of the match.
But it was DC who came closest to taking the lead in the aggregate-goal series when Pontius snuck inside the six-yard box and struck a shot directly into the chest of Robles in the 75th minute. DC also argued for a penalty on the same sequence as Lionard Pajoy grappled with NY's Pearce in the box.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)