WASHINGTON, April 22, 2012 — The New York Red Bulls arrived at RFK Stadium on Sunday night as the top-scoring team in the league with sixteen goals. However, the club’s defensive record looked suspect. It was something D.C. United would take advantage of as the cold and rainy night wore on. By the end of the game, played in front of 13,362 brave fans, United had run riot through the Red Bulls backline, earning an impressive 4-1 win, on a hat trick from Chris Pontius and a goal from Nick DeLeon. It was Pontius first career hat-trick bring his total of goals to four this season
“I think New York came here with a little bit of a watered-down team, and it showed at times,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “We’re going to see a much better New York team when they get a little healthier and the guys that are on suspension come back. We’ve got to take the win with a grain of salt, but I feel we took advantage of that. That’s what you have to do.”
United Extend Unbeaten Streak
United has now gone six games undefeated and leapfrogged the Red Bulls into second place in the Eastern Conference.
United took the lead in the 8th minute on a stunning goal from Pontius who was starting his second straight game, and in his preferred role as a central striker. Pontius robbed the ball off Thierry Henry at the bottom of the arc in the Red Bulls area. Henry fell to the ground, claiming that the United player had elbowed him in the face, but the referee was not listening.
The United striker flew to the top of the 18-yard box and let fly a powerful shot that Red Bulls goalie Ryan Meara failed to get hand to.
Henry tried to make up for his error with a shot in the 31st minute. With his back to the goal, the Frenchman controlled the ball, turned, and got in a good shot, but it was deflected for a corner.
Red Bulls Defense Collapses
A minute later, Pontius extended the lead with his third goal of the season.
Maicon Santos did all the hard work, beating four defenders along the byline on the left flank and producing a fine cross in front of the Red Bulls’ goal. Meara may have got a hand to the ball and slightly redirected the cross. The ball came off the back heel of Red Bulls defender Connor Lade and into the path of Pontius, who had the easiest shot from a yard out.
The game was turning into a comedy of errors for the Red Bulls backline which was missing veteran Mexican defender Rafa Marquez, suspended for three games.
In the 36th minute, United again shredded the Red Bulls defense. Dwayne De Rosario won the ball in the Red Bulls’ box and passed to the open DeLeon, whose shot was deflected into the goal by defender Markus Holgersson. Unbelievably, United had a three-goal lead against a team unbeaten in four games.
The Red Bulls made a couple of changes at half time hoping to salvage something from the match. Joel Lindpere and Tyler Ruthven came off the bench replacing Mehdi Ballouchy and Stephen Keel respectively. It didn’t seem to help much.
Maicon Santos should have made it 4-0 in the 51st minute after Pontius fed him the perfect pass but the Brazilian’s shot went wide.
Pontius Gets Hat Trick
Pontius’ third goal made a mockery of the Red Bulls defense. The D.C. striker breezed past Holgersson and Victor Palsson to fire a shot from ten yards out from his historic night.
Olsen, who also scored a hat-trick against the Red Bulls in his playing days, was pleased with Pontius’s effort.
“He set a great tone early,” Olsen said. “I thought the entire team was buzzing early and the ball was moving. The field was wet, so it was a nice night for them to play. Chris does a little bit of a shimmy and bangs one in.”
Henry ruined United’s shutout in the 72nd minute when he converted a delightful free-kick for his league-leading eighth goal (tied with San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski), but the deflated Red Bulls’ hardly celebrated.
“I thought that the first half was some of the best soccer we have played all year and we got three goals,” Pontius said. “It’s always nice to be playing with a lead like that. The whole team did well.”
Olsen made a few changes after the mid-week 1-1 tie at home with Montreal, starting Santos and benching Andy Najar. Defender Emiliano Dudar was back in the starting lineup and did well to stifle Henry and Kenny Cooper, while Branko Boskovic returned to the bench.
For over 20 years John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
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