With several players from D.C. United’s 2004 MLS Cup winning side in attendance, the current edition of the Black and Red survived a steamy afternoon at R.F.K Stadium and continued on its course for another title with a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.
The sultry weather conditions matched the heat of the rivalry. United was in need of the three points to get some breathing room atop the Eastern Conference, while the Red Bulls were hoping to climb back into a playoff position. United is now four points in front of Kansas City. New York is stuck in sixth place.
Additionally with the win United clinched its ninth Atlantic Cup awarded to the winner of the regular season series between the teams. The Red Bulls had taken home the Atlantic silverware in three of the past four seasons.
1. Espindola and Silva continue to connect and Johnson was also involved. Eddie Johnson had started in all twenty matches that he was eligible for in MLS play. Sunday that changed. Head coach Ben Olsen elected to go with the forward combination of Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva. They connected on the first goal when Espindola with his head flicked forward a Bill Hamid goal kick to the streaking Silva who beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. Beyond the score, Espindola and Silva communicate well and seem to understand each other’s runs. In the second half Johnson came on as a substitute for Silva and initially was too unselfish electing to pass on opportunities that needed a shot. Johnson stayed active and showed his skill at timing runs when he collected a ball played over the top of the defense by Perry Kitchen and finished for his fifth goal of the season.
2. Defense wins championships and United has what it takes. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid continues to be nothing short of spectacular. With the game scoreless in the first half Hamid made a world class save on a point-blank header from Bradley Wright-Phillips. Hamid earned every one of his five saves for his seventh shutout. The backline has been hit by injuries to Chris Korb and Jeff Parke, but replacements Taylor Kemp and Steve Birnbaum have filled the void. Kemp has been forcing the issue going forward on the flank, and Birnbaum has helped sort out the center of defense like a veteran.