On a day that D.C. United honored members of its 2004 MLS Cup-winning side -- the last United team to win the league title -- the club's current incarnation made a statement about its intentions to end that decade long drought.
United topped the New York Red Bulls, 2-0, riding goalkeeper Bill Hamid's world-class saves and second-half goals by Luis Silva and Eddie Johnson to victory in front of 19,453, their largest crowd of the year.
It was the end of a brutal month for United, who played seven times in August yet somehow managed to emerge from the run of games at the top of the Eastern Conference. They are now four points clear of second-place Sporting Kansas City.
The Red Bulls entered the match badly needing points, sitting outside the playoff picture entering the final two months of play. They remain in 6th place, just below the "red line."
The first half belonged to the goalkeepers as both sides carved out golden scoring chances.
United were handed a pair of chances in the opening 20 minutes of the match courtesy of Red Bulls defender Ibrahim Sekagya, who badly misjudged a pair of through balls. In the 5th minute, the Ugandan couldn’t get his toe on a Davy Arnaud pass, allowing Fabian Espindola through for a scoring chance. Espindola’s low, left-footed effort was pushed inches wide of the near post by Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles.
Ten minutes later, Sekgaya misread a bouncing ball, and Espindola was once again there to try and take advantage of his error. The Argentine cut back several times in the box before unleashing a blast directly into the arms of Robles.
New York’s first real chance came 19 minutes in when Thierry Henry played Bradley Wright-Phillips in at the edge of the box, but the Budweiser Golden Boot leader pushed his chance wide. In the 32nd minute, Wright-Phlllips again found himself on the end of quality service but his point-blank header was handled brilliantly by Hamid, who dove to his left to make the block.
Henry then found Australian international Tim Cahill at the edge of the area in the 43rd minute, and Hamid could only watch as Cahill nearly gave New York the lead, his shot pinging off the far post before being cleared away just before the half time whistle.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 52nd minute, and it all started with Hamid. The goalkeeper's long ball was nodded on by Espindola into the path of Silva. The former TFC man took advantage of a miscommunication between Robles and Sekagya, took a touch around the goalkeeper, and easily slotted it home.
It was Silva's 8th goal of the season. Hamid was given the secondary assist on the goal -- the first assist of his career.
The Red Bulls did their best to equalize, but found chances harder to come by as the heat took its toll on everyone. Lloyd Sam’s 84th minute cross to second-half substitute Saer Sene was full of danger, but again Hamid’s acrobatic split was enough to poke it away. Cahill took a crack from 20 yards out three minutes later, but United’s keeper smothered that effort too.
Eddie Johnson, who subbed on in the 66th minute, then put the game out of reach, running onto a long ball from midfielder Perry Kitchen and deftly chipping his shot past Robles, who got a hand to the ball, but couldn't stop it from continuing over the line.
United's next stretch of action is no less busy than their last month, as they travel to Vancouver next weekend ahead of trips to New York, Jamaica for a CONCACAF Champions League game, and then Chicago, all during the first two weeks of September.
The Red Bulls don’t have it much easier: They face Sporting Kansas City on the weekend before welcoming United for a rematch a week from Wednesday.