The playoffs are supposed to be for the best of the best and be a showcase of the ultimate in MLS, but the D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls Eastern Conference semifinal first leg wasn't that at all. It was sloppy, ugly and lacked quality from start to finish. It included a missed penalty, a red card and the only goals came from players putting them in their own net, but own goals count as much as any other as the teams drew 1-1.
D.C. actually looked positive in the early going and very well could have scored, but Luis Robles made a fine save to keep things level and then once the 15 minute mark passed there was little good to speak of on either side. They gave the ball away and hacked away at each other as both teams struggled to put together much positive play.
The only real chance that either team had from then on came when Connor Lade was called for a handling the ball in the box, giving D.C. a penalty. Robles came up huge, though, denying Chris Pontius' spot kick to keep the match scoreless.
At halftime, New York removed Rafa Marquez after a reported argument between him and manager Hans Backe, which meant Roy Miller came in. That was never going to be a good thing for the Red Bulls and it showed at the hour mark when Miller knocked the ball into his own goal to put D.C. in front.
The D.C. lead was short-lived, though. Bill Hamid lept to grab a lofted header by Heath Pearce that should have been routine, but instead he bobbled it then fell, knocking the ball over the goal line for an own goal of his own that even the match at one.
That was apparently all Andy Najar wanted to see because after being shown a card by Jair Marrufo for a bad tackle, the threw the ball at Marrufo, earning a red card that left D.C. with 10 men. That didn't affect the home side anyways. New York showed no willingness to attack despite being up a man and took their draw on the road.
This match was supposed to be played in New York, but Hurricane Sandy left Red Bull Arena without power so the first leg was played in D.C. despite United being the higher seeded team. The second leg will be played in New York on Wednesday, where the winner will move on to the Eastern Conference final and the loser's season will come to an end.