November 2, 2012
Eastern Conference Semifinal:
#3NEW YORK RED BULLS (16-9-9, 57 pts) @ #2 DC UNITED (17-10-7, 58 pts), 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN)
DC United sacrificed their home field advantage in their two-leg Eastern Conference semifinal against the New York Red Bulls to the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, and will host the first leg of the home-and-home set despite being the higher seed. The Red Bulls might take the field without catalytic central midfielder Tim Cahill, who has not practiced this week because of a calf injury. United, meanwhile, got some good news on the injury front when 2011 league MVP Dwayne De Rosario was upgraded to questionable, fueling speculation that he will be back on the field should his team get past the Red Bulls and into the Conference finals. Both teams bring abundant firepower to their two-leg series. The Red Bulls’ strike tandem of Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry combined for 33 regular season goals, and Cooper, despite a prolonged midseason slump, finished second to San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski in the MLS Golden Boot chase with 18. DC’s attack is more balanced. Chris Pontius leads the way with 12 goals, but even in De Rosario’s absence, the team has gotten consistent – and clutch – production from Maicon Santos (7), rookie Nick De Leon (6), selectively-used DP Hamdi Salihi (6) and late-season acquisition Lionard Pajoy (3g, 1a in 12 games). In all, 15 DC players found the back of the net during the regular season. DC also gets the nod in goal. Bill Hamid finished the season third in the league with a 1.03 g.a.a and a league-leading 78.6 save percentage. Luis Robles is the third New York starter of this injury-plagued season, and will be making only his fifth MLS start. Neither one of these teams have been particularly impressive on the road this season, each winning only five of 17 away from their home ground. The teams split their regular-season series down the middle, each finishing with one (home) win, one loss and one draw, combining for 14 goals over the three games.