If there was a silver lining to Andy Najar's red card Saturday that knocked the 19-year-old right back out of D.C. United's second leg against the New York Red Bulls, it's that the club has a couple veterans with playoff experience ready to step in.
Thomas Floyd covers D.C. United for The Washington Times.
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It was far from pretty, but D.C. United's first playoff game in five years Saturday sure was entertaining. In a match that featured a missed penalty kick, a red card after two rapid-fire cautions, and, most bizarrely, the teams trading own goals four minutes apart, United and the New York Red Bulls will enter Wednesday's second leg tied 1-1.
After five years, the D.C. United faithful Saturday night will finally see playoff soccer again -- four days earlier than expected.
Four days after earning home-field advantage in the MLS playoffs, D.C. United saw it taken away by forces well beyond its control. With the New York metropolitan area still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, MLS on Wednesday announced United and the New York Red Bulls would swap home playoff dates in the two-game, total-goals Eastern Conference semifinal.
Seven months and 18 days after the MLS regular season kicked off, it came to a close Sunday night. As we brace ourselves for the playoffs, let's look back at the 2012 campaign by focusing on its standout players. Here are my first- and second-team all-league selections, as well as the votes I submitted for the various MLS awards.
D.C. United on Saturday will play their first playoff game since 2007 at Red Bull Arena before concluding the two-game, total-goals series against New York on Wednesday at RFK Stadium. Both matches will kick off at 8 p.m.
With crucial seeding at stake, D.C. United on Saturday faced a playoff team for the first time since Dwayne De Rosario went down with a knee injury more than a month ago. And just as they have throughout this unbeaten run without their talisman, United found a way to get the result they needed.
Today's match between D.C. United and the Chicago Fire (4 p.m., NBCSN) was stripped of its do-or-die status when United clinched a playoff berth with last weekend's 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew. But there still is plenty at stake in this one.
D.C. United this year have thrived under adversity. Their 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth was no different.
For D.C. United, the drought is almost over. With just a draw in either of their final two games, United will clinch their first playoff berth since 2007. A win in either match will ensure D.C. will finish no worse than fourth, guaranteeing the club at least one home playoff game. And two wins will lock United into a top-three spot and a bye to the conference semifinals.
With U.S. all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan sidelined by a knee injury, former University of Maryland standout Graham Zusi, now an All-Star and MVP candidate with Sporting Kansas City, seems poised to take over a creative midfield role for the Americans during crucial World Cup qualifiers Friday night at Antigua and Barbuda and Tuesday against Guatemala.
D.C. United are getting pretty good at this winning ugly thing. With a 1-0 triumph at Toronto FC on Saturday, the club improved to 4-0-1 since captain Dwayne De Rosario suffered a sprained knee ligament. And three of those wins have been 1-0 results.
After enduring the United States' Olympic qualifying disappointment, suffering an ankle injury and briefly losing his starting job with D.C. United, goalkeeper Bill Hamid has quietly put together a standout campaign.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said the city is in "final negotiations" to complete a stadium deal with United during an interview Friday on The Kojo Nnamdi Show.
D.C. United may have let two points slip away late in their 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Saturday, but it was a sound result nonetheless.