That's just not the way you want to get eliminated. After schedule changes and weather delays, the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United finally took to a clean field in Harrison Thursday night, only to sully it with a gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat in front of their home crowd. New York's elimination from the Eastern Conference Semifinals could not have been more torturous.
New York had all the chances. Thierry Henry spent much of the first half watching their plum opportunities end an inch wide of the net or safely in Bill Hamid's hands. The moment for breakthrough finally arrived in the 69th minute, when Hamid got the hook (he did not take said hook lightly) for undercutting Kenny Cooper as he broke free from the pack. With replacement goalie Joe Willis in net, Cooper calmly strode forward and delivered his penalty kick into the back of net, prompting massive relief and celebration while everyone ignored the referee with his arm raised. It turned out Mark Geiger had whistled the Red Bulls for encroaching the box before Cooper had taken his shot. Sure enough, Cooper's retry took too central a path and was easily deflected by Willis.
And sure enough, United would exploit their new life. After the Red Bulls dropped to ten men themselves following Rafa Marquez's second yellow card, D.C. saw a deep Chris Pontius shot fly wide, only to strike again in the 88th minute. Nick DeLeon's barely onside goal in the 88th minute gave United an aggregate lead that New York couldn't match, even with a free kick opportunity as time expired.
Particularly after all the weather trouble, New York's elimination could not have been more frustrating. They were unmistakably the more composed, more aggressive team on Thursday, but it's United who will move on to face the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Finals while the Red Bulls replay the evening's slights and missed opportunities in their heads all winter long.