HARRISON, N.J. – Nick DeLeon scored in the 88th minute to give D.C. United a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In a game that was postponed a day after a Nor'easter blanketed the field with snow Wednesday night, the Red Bulls appeared poised to take the lead in the 69th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick as D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid was given a red card.
In a wild series of events, the Red Bulls scored a goal that was taken back before D.C. backup keeper Joe Willis made a crucial save on the second attempt. Kenny Cooper put his initial penalty kick past Willis, but the goal was called off by the referee because the Red Bulls had entered the penalty area early.
Willis, apparently warmed up after the first attempt, dove to his left on Cooper's second penalty kick attempt and made the save. Cooper took a little hop before the shot, but decided to go to his right and was thwarted by Willis. His first kick had beaten Willis to the other side.
The penalty kick was set up when Thierry Henry connected with Dax McCarty, whose through ball sent Cooper on a breakaway. Hamid came off his line to challenge, but when Cooper pushed it past him, the keeper reached out and tripped Cooper. The red-card ejection followed and Cooper waited at the penalty spot for Willis to take his place in goal.
Robbie Russell's through ball sent DeLeon in on goal alone and he put his chance away past Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles, who was hardly tested all game.
The Red Bulls had a man-advantage until the 75th when Red Bulls defender Rafa Marquea was ejected after receiving his second yellow card.
D.C. United travels to meet the Houston Dynamo on Sunday in the Eastern Conference finals of the MLS Cup playoffs.
D.C. United nearly scored an early goal in the 4th minute when DeLeon received a return pass to break into the right side of the box unmarked. He quickly sent a rolling cross to the six-yard line, where Lionard Pajoy, with his back to the goal, tried to heel kick it past Robles, who was there to knock it away.
McCarty made a bid to put New York up in the 14th after some deft passing by the Red Bulls. Henry made a run with the ball and sent a pass to Kenny Cooper just inside the penalty area. Cooper's first-touch flick to the right was met by the charging McCarty, who was denied when Hamid came off his line to make a two-handed deflection.
The Red Bulls were frustrated again in the 28th. Henry lifted a shot from inside the box that Hamid leaped to bat away, but the attempt to clear the ball gave Henry a second chance and his left-footed shot from practically the same spot bounced off the midsection of a defender. The ball stayed alive in the box and was collected by Joel Lindpere and his rolling attempt cleared the crowd and wound up inches wide of the right post.
McCarty was foiled again by Hamid in the 65th. Henry chipped a ball into the box and Tim Cahill knocked it to the foot of McCarty, who juggled it in the air before his point-blank left-footed shot was batted away by the D.C. keeper.
The Red Bulls announced before the game that they would donate half of the ticket receipts, a total of $250,000, to hurricane relief funds in New Jersey and New York, as well as the Red Cross.