DC United poised for MLS title (US Presswire)
HARRISON, N.J. - Nick DeLeon gave D.C. United the win. Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis gave him the chance.
DeLeon scored in the 88th minute, Willis had a crucial save on a
penalty kick and D.C. United advanced to the Eastern Conference final
with a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night.
United advanced 2-1 on aggregate after playing New York to a 1-1 draw
Saturday and faces the Houston Dynamo in the conference final.
a game that was postponed a day after a Nor'easter blanketed the field
with snow Wednesday night, the Red Bulls appeared poised to take the
lead in the 69th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick as D.C.
United's starting goalie, Bill Hamid, was given a red card.
wild series of events, the Red Bulls scored a goal that was taken back
before Willis made a stop on the second attempt. Kenny Cooper put his
initial penalty kick past Willis, but the goal was called off by the
referee because the Red Bulls had entered the penalty area early.
apparently warmed up after the first attempt, dove to his left on
Cooper's second penalty kick and made the save. Cooper decided to go to
his right and was thwarted by Willis. His first kick had beaten Willis
to the other side.
"The first one, I went the wrong way, but,
hey, they didn't count that one," said Willis. "After it went in, I
tried to clear my head. It's a different kind of PK when they call the
first one back. It's even more of a mental game. There is always more
pressure on the kicker."
Cooper, who took a last-second hop before
he struck his two kicks, may have caused his teammates to encroach with
the hesitation in his approach. Cooper was too distraught to talk after
the game, fighting back tears while sitting at his locker.
It was a wild finish to a game mostly dominated by the Red Bulls, who were repeatedly thwarted by Hamid.
"Mostly when it's New York as the opponent," D.C. United coach Ben
Olsen said when asked if he had been involved in such a game. "It's an
absolute zoo these games."
Willis had turned and smiled as he ran onto the field, receiving some last-minute advice from Olsen.
"I told him to make a save and he made a save," Olsen joked. "I'm a
genius. He hasn't played a game in a long time. He only plays when Bill
(Hamid) gets red cards. He's a big boy and we have a lot of faith in
Red Bulls coach Hans Backe had nothing but praise for Cooper.
"He scored on the first one," said Backe. "He has no problem with
taking penalty kicks. He's a calm, cool, guy. Mentally, he has no
problem with it."
The Red Bulls had a man advantage after Hamid's
red card until the 75th minute when Rafa Marquez received his second
yellow card and was ejected.
"We deserved to win the most and we
didn't," Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry said. "You have to give D.C.
credit. We missed so many chances. They scored and we didn't. I don't
know how many chances we had, but we didn't score."
kick was set up when Henry connected with Dax McCarty, whose through
ball sent Cooper on a breakaway. Hamid came off his line to challenge,
but when Cooper pushed it past him, the keeper reached out and tripped
Cooper. The red-card ejection followed and Cooper waited at the penalty
spot for Willis to take his place in goal.
"It was a leap," Hamid said. "I watched the replay and (Cooper) made a leap over me. He wasn't touched."
Russell's through ball sent DeLeon in on goal alone and he put his
chance away past Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles, who was hardly tested all
The Red Bulls announced before the game that they would
donate half of the ticket receipts, a total of $250,000, to hurricane
relief funds in New Jersey and New York, as well as the Red Cross.