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November 8, 2012
D.C.crashes Red Bulls out of the playoffs

By Michael Lewis Editor

The Red Bulls Kenny Cooper had a pk called back and the re-try stopped.
The Red Bulls Kenny Cooper had a pk called back and the re-try stopped.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- The Red Bulls crashed out of the MLS Cup playoffs on Thursday night -- once again.

Rookie Nick DeLeon scored from 12 yards in the 88th minute to boost D.C. United to a 1-0 win over the Red Bulls in Thursday's Eastern Conference semifinal finale at Red Bull Arena.

United won the aggregate goal series, 2-1, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night.

DeLeon took a pass from Robbie Russell and beat goalkeeper Luis Robles for the game-winner in a game that was delayed a day by a nor'easter snowstorm and had a number of twists and turns.

Both teams finished with 10 players due to red cards and Red Bulls striker Kenny Cooper had a penalty kick saved in the second half.

The Red Bulls came out with all cylinders firing in the opening 15 minutes, using a high-pressure defense that defused any idea of D.C. striking for an early goal.

Only four minutes into the match, however, Robles was tested as he denied Lionard Pajoy in front of the goal after the United forward received a short pass from the right side from DeLeon.

The Red Bulls had their first real opportunity in the 19th minute as Thierry Henry flicked the ball to his right to Cooper, who in turn flicked the ball to Dax McCarty. The midfielder powered a shot that Bill Hamid knocked out of bounds for a corner kick.

The hosts came tantalizingly close to breaking the ice in the 28th minute. Cooper laid off a pass to Henry, who fired a shot that Hamid managed to make a two-handed save on. The D.C. backline had trouble clearing the ball and Henry ripped another shot off a defender's chest. The ball eventually came to midfielder Joel Lindpere on the left side of the penalty area and his 12-yard shot rolled just wide right of the net.

For a good portion of the rest of the half, the Red Bulls tried a long-ball attack that was relatively ineffective against D.C.'s tall backline.

New York, however, continued its air game. Henry chested down a long ball from the back to McCarty, whose attempt was deflected to Cooper. The striker fired a shot that D.C. defender Dejan Jakovic deflected out of bounds for a corner kick in the 53rd minute. Nothing came of the subsequent Red Bulls set piece.

The Red Bulls continued their strategy six minutes later. This time Henry lofted a 45-yard free kick on the right side to Cooper's head. Cooper nodded the ball to Lindpere, who headed straight to Hamid.

On the other side of the field, New York center back Rafa Marquez was yellow-carded for hitting Chris Pontius in the face while the two were battling for an air ball in the 61st minute.

Hamid again was up to the task in the 65th minute when he denied McCarty from point-blank range.

Hamid, however, would not see the end of the match. After taking a pass from McCarty, Cooper was tripped by the goalkeeper just inside the penalty area. Referee Mark Geiger immediately signalled for a penalty kick and then red carded Hamid in the 69th minute.

United coach Ben Olsen was forced to replace midfielder Branko Boskovic with reserve keeper Joe Willis for Cooper's penalty kick attempt. Cooper waited for Willis, inserted cold into the match, to make his move and he fired his attempt into the lower right corner.

However, the goal did not count as Geiger ruled that a Red Bulls player had encroached in the area and had the kick retaken. On his second try, Cooper decided to fire his shot to the same place. This time Willis guessed correctly and made the save.

The Red Bulls' man advantage did not last for long as Marquez was assessed his second yellow card and was given his marching orders in the 75th minute.

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