D.C. United defeated the New York Red Bulls 1-0 at Red Bull Arena as a dramatic second half saw two red cards, a made penalty retaken and missed, and a late winning goal from D.C. rookie Nick DeLeon.
Both teams saw golden opportunities in the first half go begging. Lionard Pajoy was put through on the Red Bull net a few minutes in, but Luis Robles was able to get down and smother the chance. Shortly before the half-hour mark, the Red Bulls managed not to capitalize on a chaotic goalmouth scramble, with Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry having their shots blocked before Joel Lindpere sliced the final effort wide.
The game's crowning drama came around the 70th minute. Cooper was played through clean on goal, only to have his feet taken out by Bill Hamid. Hamid was dismissed, much to the protests of the D.C. players. Cooper netted his spot kick attempt against substitute Joe Willis, but referee Mark Geiger called the effort back for encroachment, and Willis stonewalled the second attempt.
That wasn't the only red card shown on the night. A few minutes later, Rafael Marquez picked up his now-annual playoff dismissal when he was shown a second yellow card for a harsh tackle on Chris Pontius.
The visitors finally broke the deadlock in the 88th minute. Nick DeLeon picked up a smart lay-off from Robbie Russell and beat the offside trap. Showing composure, the rookie finished past Robles to give his side a vital late advantage.
The result means that D.C. advances to the Eastern Conference final, and will now travel to BBVA Compass stadium on Nov. 11 to take on the Houston Dynamo, before returning home to RFK for the second leg.
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