clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

DC United vs. New York Red Bulls, 2014 MLS Playoffs: Does 'that's so Metro' finally die?

New York has a chance to finish off their hated rivals, and at RFK Stadium to boot.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In the 19-year history of Major League Soccer, no franchise's fans have been subjected to ridicule quite like those of the New York Red Bulls/MetroStars. They started out with a silly name and a massive target on their back simply because they were New York's representative in the league. They swapped out that name for an equally ridiculous one and the target only grew.

They've rarely been completely awful, have employed some of the league's greatest players and have even been pretty good at times, but they've never been able to shake the "That's so Metro" meme. That's mostly because even after winning the franchise's first piece of silverware -- a well-earned Supporters' Shield last season -- they've always seemed to falter when the pressure is highest. Last year, for instance, they fell in the Eastern Conference semifinals to a Houston Dynamo team that was happy just to make the postseason.

Beating D.C. United in on Saturday would not silence those critics, but it would be another undeniable sign that this is a franchise on an upward trajectory and give them some momentum heading into 2015 when New York City FC is primed to fight them for the hearts and souls of New York-area soccer fans.

The performance in Leg 1 suggests this team is perfectly capable of doing just that. Despite going through the season in a state of half-sleep, the Red Bulls qualified for the playoffs and then handled the defending MLS Cup champions in back-to-back weeks. They followed that up with one of the best all-around games they'd played all season, beating United 2-0 and coming close to burrying their biggest rivals.

There's a lot to like about this assemblage of talent. Maybe this year really is different.

Team News

The first leg could not have gone much worse for United and it's entirely possible they'll take some gambles in the home leg. One such gamble could very well be the inclusion of Luis Silva. Although he was originally ruled out for 4-6 weeks after suffering a hamstring injury on Oct. 12, he's apparently ahead of schedule. There's been no firm word on his availability for Saturday's game, but considering this could be United's last game of the season it would not be shocking if Ben Olsen pressed his leading scorer into action, at least off the bench. Sean Franklin is also apparently ready to make his full return and Chris Rolfe could be fit enough to start as well.

Projected lineups

New York Red Bulls (4-2-3-1): Luis RoblesRoy MillerIbrahim SekagyaJamison OlaveRichard EckersleyDax McCartyEric AlexanderThierry Henry, Peguy LuyindulaLloyd Sam; Bradley Wright-Phillips.

D.C. United (4-4-2): Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Steven Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin; Chris PontiusPerry KitchenDavy ArnaudNick DeLeonFabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson

football formations

Key Questions

1. What will Henry do for an encore? There's very little question as to where Henry sits in the pantheon of MLS greats: Near the very top if not all alone there. With most assuming this is his final season here, it was pretty amazing to see him put together such a great performance in the first leg. He didn't just assist on both goals, he had a perfectly placed back-heel and a gorgeous ball over-the-top. The Red Bulls don't need him to be quite as good, but let's not let them stop him from putting on another show.

2. Which way does Olsen go at left back? Lloyd Sam pretty much had his way with Taylor Kemp both times they faced off and Chris Korb is probably the better matchup from a defensive side. But Kemp is also the better option getting forward and United is, after all, chasing a two-goal deficit. That's not a great choice, but having Franklin back on the right side should make it a little easier to go with the more defensive option.

3. Can New York avoid the banana peel? Taking a 2-0 lead onto the road leg is not exactly a guarantee of victory, but New York is clearly in prime position. Failing to advance at this point would be a huge disappointment and is only likely to happen if they fall apart.

Prediction

The away-goals rule will come into stark effect this weekend, and this game is a prime example of how. If the Red Bulls can simply manage to put one past Bill Hamid, United will need to score four goals in order to advance. That's something United only managed to do three times all year and the only time they did it against a playoff-caliber opponent was on April 26. United win 2-1, but it won't be enough.