WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The New York Red Bulls reached the Eastern Conference final in the MLS playoffs despite a 2-1 defeat by D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday.
The result left New York with a 3-2 aggregate triumph, their first ever playoff series win over D.C, and Mike Petke’s team will play Columbus or New England in the East final.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, United had a tough task but after a sluggish start they got themselves into the tie with a 37th minute goal from Nick DeLeon.
Left back Taylor Kemp whipped in a fine cross from the left and DeLeon broke free of his marker, Dax McCarty, to power in his header.
Another goal would have brought the score level on aggregate and just after the interval Fabian Espindola went very close with a diving header from a DeLeon cross.
But once again it was New York’s former France international Thierry Henry who proved decisive.
Henry collected a header from Bradley Wright-Phillips on the left of the box, beat his man and fired in a low cross which compatriot Peguy Luyindula met with a fine, one touch finish.
The Red Bulls had Costa Rican left back Roy Miller sent off in the 78th minute for a reckless high challenge and D.C grabbed a second in stoppage time when Sean Franklin fired in from close range.
That counted for little, however and Henry, whose contract with New York runs out at the end of this season, continues on his goal of signing out with the franchise’s first MLS Cup win.
“I thought we were too deep in first half, I don’t know why, we knew they would have a go but we were not quite there,” Henry told reporters.
“But we kept our composure and shape in the second half and had one or two opportunities. We finished with 10 men and we had to battle a bit more, but we did it,” said the former Arsenal forward.
New England have a 4-2 lead going into their second leg at home to Columbus on Sunday while in the Western Conference there is all to play for in Los Angeles where the Galaxy host Real Salt Lake after a goalless first leg in Utah.
Reporting By Simon Evans, editing by Mark Meadows