DC United started the second leg of their playoff matchup with the New York Red Bulls aggressively but with little composure. The resulting chances were of little threat to the Red Bulls goal keeper Luis Robles. Play settled down after a hectic first fifteen minutes. With the Red Bulls happy to play a possession game, sitting comfortably with a two goal lead on aggregate, DC began to regain some composure.
In the 37th minute the raucous crowd noise was ratcheted up another notch when Nick DeLeon headed in a remarkable cross from Taylor Kemp. It was clear the goal filled United with confidence and despite a goal in the 57th minute by Red Bulls Peguy Luyindula, DC’s attack on the Red Bulls goal never relented.
Fabian Espindola was especially aggressive in the attacking third, pressuring the Red Bulls back-line and firing shots from all angles. Eddie Johnson came on as a substitute for Davy Arnaud in the 60th minute and added to the pressure applied by Espindola.
Unfortunately, United only found the back of the net one more time when Sean Franklin slammed a ball past Robles one minute into stoppage time. The final whistle blew four minutes later and DC United’s season was over.
It is impossible to deny that this season was a remarkable step forward for DC but whether or not you can call it a success, I suppose, really depends on how you view soccer. DC did finish first in the Eastern Conference but failed to capture the Supports Shield, did not defend their Open Cup, and were eliminated from CONCACAF Champions League play. The MLS Cup was the clubs last chance at earning a trophy for the year.
So, do you determine success based on trophies earned? If so, would you call last season’s three win MLS campaign more successful than this year because of the Open Cup championship? Unlikely.
I think rather the product on the field was improved enough to look at this season as a success. It of course is disappointing now, fresh off an elimination loss to rivals Red Bulls, but the expectation of a full worst to first with an MLS Cup was a lofty goal to begin with. For DC to have made it this far is certainly a tremendous first step in the process of regaining the elite club status DC has held for so long.
Bill Hamid broke out this year in a major way becoming an indisputable elite goalkeeper. Combining Hamid with Perry Kitchen, Luis Silva, and Steve Birnbaum, gives DC United a solid young core to move forward with. This year will certainly serve as a solid experience gain for DC United and make them better prepared for a deep MLS Playoff run next year.