Saturday night's final meeting of the year between the oldest rivalry in MLS - the New York Red Bulls and DC United - was surprisingly overshadowed. Coach Mike Petke opted rolled the dice with a starting lineup that didn't include superstar Thierry Henry. Lucky for him, it worked, with New York edging United 2-1 on goals from Lloyd Sam and Tim Cahill, as well as a critical penalty save from Luis Robles.



Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips both make the most of their first home starts. When Lloyd Sam was acquired by the team last year, Red Bulls fans were impressed with his quickness with the ball and ability to get forward. But for whatever reason, he had largely been relegated to the bench in favor of Eric Alexander, a solid if not spectacular midfielder. Sam got his first home start and full game of the year thanks to other lineup changes, and he terrorized DC's flank, sending crosses in all night and scoring the opening goal with a beautiful chip over Bill Hamid.

Bradley Wright-Phillips also got his first start of the year for RBNY, lining up at forward next to Tim Cahill. His vision, distribution, and speed was a refreshing change after weeks of misfiring Red Bulls attacking; hopefully it won't be his only start of the year.

Luis Robles saves the day - again. Never let it be said Luis Robles doesn't do his homework. Yet again he made a penalty kick save, this time denying Dwayne De Rosario from equalizing the game late.

A proud day for Tim Cahill. Cahill scored the game winner in the 38th minute, a trademark header on a solid cross from Jonny Steele. But the Australian dubbed Saturday "one of the most special days of my life" not due to his goal, but because of his son Kyah, who was tapped to sing the National Anthem before the game.


Henry drama overshadows the game. Reports trickled in from training on Thursday that Henry and Petke had to be separated following a heated confrontation. And while Friday's practice saw the men being cordial - a handshake, a few discussions - question marks remained as to whether or not Henry would figure into the weekend game plan.

When the match lineup sheet showed Henry on the bench, some fans were livid. "If [Petke] loses this game what are the odds he keeps his job?" was one immediate reaction on Twitter. Henry would not sub into the game until the 58th minute (after the match was already won), and while he did provide a spark off the bench, he continued his unfortunate streak of not having a shot of goal since July 20th.

Even after the win, questions lingered about benching Henry, which Mike Petke dubbed a "coach's decision". Petke indicated that the dust-up wasn't an unusual thing on any team in the world, and described both men's emotional nature as being "like a tornado hitting a volcano". Henry, for his part, again declined to speak to the media. Whether the hatchet is truly buried will have to wait until next week's game at Houston.

Not putting the game to bed. We can't understate how truly awful United is this year. With no road wins and all of three road goals in 2013, the fact that they hung in the game for as long as they did didn't speak well for New York having full control of the game. One defensive failure lead to Nick DeLeon's goal from close range, and another saw Ibrahim Sekagya sent off and gave DC the chance to level the match again with the penalty. Yes, it was a win, but it didn't feel like a particularly dominant victory over one of the worst performing sides the league has ever seen.


Another penalty, another red card. New York has shown a distinct lack of finesse in their defending this year. It was the eighth penalty the team has conceded in 2013, a league high - comparatively, the team only conceded one penalty in the 2012 regular season. Sekagya's red card was the fifth NY has seen this season.

The shouting match between Mike Petke and Ben Olsen to close out the match. Despite being old friends from their playing days, there is no love lost between Petke and Olsen during the match, and last night saw both coaches launch expletive tirades at the other in the closing moments. They shared a hug immediately after the match, although Olsen may have landed the winning blow during his post-match interview, laughingly telling reporters "Mike knows who'd win in a 1-v-1 street fight. That's never been a question."


The Red Bulls will head to Houston looking to add some daylight in the playoff race. Yes, NY is tied for first place in the East and Houston is just outside of the playoff picture, but only six points separate the teams. New York has never won at Houston (0-3-4 all-time), and with two road games at BBVA Stadium in the cards between now and the end of the season, New York will need to snatch some points to solidify their post-season plans.


Mike Petke on Luis Robles' penalty save as a 'pivotal moment': "A pivotal moment in the game, for sure, if not the pivotal moment. We’ve had many pivotal moments. There will probably be another one next week, good or bad. Every week we have a pivotal moment and a big play, you know, that defines the season up to that point. But for this game that was incredible because it gave us a bit of a boost, confidence. We’re down a man, they tie it up right there and it’s going to be a real dogfight. So very, very big game changer."

Tim Cahill on wearing the captain's armband and his emotions: "I said from the start, I've never needed the captain's armband to captain this team. The boys know I'm a true leader and I'll fight to the end. I know there's two different elements to emotions - taking emotions into the game, and going too over the top, trying too hard, and because my son was singing...emotions are fantastic, but I've been in the game a long time. Sometimes can go the other way, try too hard and get sent off. I can't have [my son] stealing all the limelight, can I? One of my proudest moments as a father. I think for the fans, they can see what it means for me as a player, trying to earn respect from them and from my own teammates. This is what we need to do every week. Away from home, I know we can do it, but it's obviously up to us to keep this consistency."

Lloyd Sam on his performance: "I just try and do the best I can do when I’m on the pitch. Whether it’s a statement, that’s up to other people to see. Whenever I’m put out there, I’m just trying to do the best I can do. It was a cross-shot and good things happen from them sort of balls so I’ll take the goal...I mean I’m not at that many games, as you guys know, so it’s nice to get in there, first start at home, and get a goal. I was saying that good things will happen when you start me at home so I had to kind of back up my talk."

Next Match: Sunday, September 8th 5 PM, at Houston (TV: UniMas / MSG)