HARRISON, N.J. (AP) – A long trek to the scoring column for Brandon Barklage and Jan Gunnar Solli ended Sunday night with the defense-minded twosome accounting for all the goals in the Red Bulls' 3-2 win over D.C. United.
A franchise-record crowd of 25,187 witnessed Barklage, a defender waived last December by the same United squad he victimized for his first two MLS career goals, tie the game in the 20th minute, then put the Red Bulls up 2-1 in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.
The fans also saw Solli, who has alternated between midfield and defense this year, knock in the winner in the 55th minute for his first career goal in 43 MLS games.
Coach Hans Backe was hard-pressed to think of an unlikelier pair to provide the offense to what he termed the most complete game the Red Bulls (9-4-3) have played this year. His team moved into a first-place tie with United (9-5-3) in the East.
''When Barklage and Solli score, you have to win, probably,'' Backe said after his squad secured its 30th point and ran its mark to 6-1-2 over its last nine games.
Barklage played 11 of his 22 career MLS games with United before that team told him he ''couldn't cut it'' there and waived him last December. He got his first goal almost by accident in an action-packed first half when he flashed across the goalmouth to left-foot Joel Lindpere's low corner kick past keeper Bill Hamid.
''It was a great ball in, near post,'' said Barklage, whose goal followed a difficult opening in which D.C.'s Chris Pontius scored his franchise's fastest goal at 31 seconds. It was the second-fastest goal ever scored against the Red Bulls, coming a dozen seconds later than New England Revolution forward Jose Casela's goal at 19 seconds in 2005. ''The ball came in my space and luckily I got a foot on it. I started celebrating right away.''
Barklage put the Red Bulls up in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. Lurking on the right side, Barklage knocked in a one-time volley after Rafa Marquez's free kick, caused when D.C.'s Robbie Russell brought down Mehdi Ballouchy just outside the box. The free kick caromed high off the defensive wall.
''It took me four years to do it,'' said Barklage, who signed with the Red Bulls in February after trying out with assistant coach Mike Petke and playing in three preseason games in January. ''There's a lot of history in D.C. for me. Luckily, they didn't come here and get a point or three points.''
Solli saw to that in the 55th minute, putting in his own rebound of a shot off Lindpere's feed for a 3-1 lead.
''It was a long run for the first goal,'' Solli said. ''A long time. It was nice to bury that. Now it's up to me to try to get into (scoring) positions. But it'll be nice to see the replay because I haven't done it.''
Except for the first minute, the Red Bulls dominated the opening 55 minutes before wearing down over the final stretch, allowing United several good opportunities. Pontius tightened the score in the 66th minute with his second goal, his fifth this season against the Red Bulls thanks to his first career hat trick in their meeting April 22.
But the defense held. And the offense was dominant well into the second half.
''They were finding seams and we weren't too happy,'' Hamid said. ''You could say we gave this game away in the first half. Once we score early like that, we've got to keep up the pressure and not let up because teams are going to punish us, especially on the road.''