The New York (New Jersey) Red Bulls have one of the highest paid rosters in MLS and have an empty trophy case to show for it. They will be motivated tonight at home. Still, they have to realize that their salaries and good fortune on Saturday in DC are no deterrent to Ben Olsen’s United team.
The coach was sanguine about his team’s situation after tying 1-1 at home, “We obviously wanted to win today. I thought we had a good balance of going forward and making sure we didn’t get exposed in the back.
“Again, I thought there was some really good stuff offensively. We created chances. In the first half, we were a little bit rushed at times. We probably should have nicked a goal.”
He was not alone. Commenting on the classic playoff style adopted by both teams, Lewis Neal felt that the deeper restraint line was not really a hindrance to attacking, “We had a lot of decent efforts…We played particularly well in the first half.”
When Andy Najar was ejected leaving United with only ten players, Neal noted that, “We weren’t just hanging on there, (We had) one or two breakaways, one or two half looks…..It just shows the togetherness and the team spirit that we have.”
Perry Kitchen, who has carried the large burden of protecting the defenders while helping transition to attack, believes that DC’s cohesion has matured quite well, – “If we are playing the best, with good pressure, good possession, we can hang with any team. That’s just what we need to do.”
Captain Chris Pontius agreed, “I always felt good about how we matched up against them and tonight just proved it right. Like I said, we have to match their intensity up there and we’ve got to play offensively up there like we did down here.”
This year’s group has grown along with their young coach and appears not only to have bought into his approach, but to understand it well. Their unanimous confidence in each other stands out in every interview.
Possible rookie of the year, Nick DeLeon saw it clearly, “They weren’t doing much with that (the deeper restraint line used by both teams) and we picked our moments very well…We stuck together as a team and it all worked out….It really limited their chances and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t put more in the net.” After going down to ten men, it was, “Sit in tight and go on the counter if we had the opportunity.”
The wisest player on the team, Branko Boskovic put it simply, “Game like this, you must be smart…..Be patient until the last minute.” It is interesting that Olsen has frequently chosen Neal and Boskovic for simple roles that support the middle of the field. They both bring a calmness and understanding that supports and teaches the youngsters around them.
The expected horrible weather conditions tonight will favor the team that holds together best and avoids mistakes. Olsen has emphasized that cohesion as the season has progressed and the loss of Dwayne De Rosario has helped cement a team that adjusted to the loss of offense by be becoming even stingier on defense.
The original DC United followed the Bruce Arena style of pressuring all over the field. Olsen’s squad lends itself more to a withdrawn restraint line, but is otherwise the same in emphasizing maintenance of possession once obtained and a quick attack, but only when it “is on”.
Here’s how Chris Korb saw it, “In the second half after the red card you can’t do much.” That is obvious enough, but he went on to point out, “We still probably had more chances than they did. We’re fine, we’ll be ready for Wednesday.”
His confidence is well placed as he realized that United was already prepared to contain the Red Bulls as they had all game, but the team reserved the right to attack when it was on. The loss of Najar’s services will take away some of DC’s sting in either a slow buildup or a counter, but his talent is best suited to better conditions where skill predominates.
With weather the great leveler, United’s blue collar style should serve them well.