Metro marches on Washington and over Scum
November 8, 2014

DC United New York
11.08.14 · Playoff

In the end, it was the most Metro way this team could advance. What will go down as the greatest loss in franchise history had every cliched Metro disaster possible: a first-half deficit the team never looked interested in overcoming; a blatantly missed penalty call; a moment of brilliance from Metro's best player; and of course, a Roy Miller meltdown at the worst possible moment. However, thanks to entering the match with a 2:0 aggregate lead, the 2:1 result means Metro marches over the Scum into the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3:2 victory.

Mike Petke understandably kept the same lineup from last Sunday's comprehensive drubbing of DC. As we've seen on numerous occasions though, this squad of elderly statesmen took their time finding their way into the match. The overrated and undermanned Scum did little to turn this early advantage to their benefit despite the visitors looking out of sorts and uninvolved for long stretches.

Unfortunately, just as Metro came to life in the latter part of the first half, so too did the Scum. Metro reject Fabian Espindola lobbed a long cross-field pass to left back Taylor Kemp, who was all alone on the Metro right. The pedestrian Kemp uncharacteristically attempted a cross on the half-volley, which found the head of an unmarked Nick DeLeon, who had slipped away from Dax McCarty on the play. Jamison Olave and Ibrahim Sekagya looked incredulously at one another as Metro's lead dwindled to a single goal.

Bradley Wright-Phillips nearly responded five minutes from the half through a pair of fabulous individual moves that put the striker in on goal. Taking a Lloyd Sam header around rookie defender Steve Birnbaum with a deft touch, BWP then played the ball through the legs of lumbering oaf Bobby Boswell, leaving only Bill Hamid to beat for the equalizer. This time the DC keeper was up to the task, stonewalling the Golden Boot winner and keeping the Scum within a goal at halftime.

Whatever Petke and assistant coach Robin Fraser said to the players at the half certainly worked, as the second half opened much better than the first. Under pressure as Titi Henry and Sam imposed themselves on the Scum defense, the home side finally crumbled in the 57th minute.

An excellent long ball from McCarty to Wright-Phillips was headed down by the Englishman into Henry's path. After settling the ball for a moment to allow his attackers to get in position, Henry dribbled to his left then sprinted to the endline, beating Sean Franklin and driving a cross to the near post. In a show of late-season heroics we're getting used to seeing, Peguy Luydinula used the space created by Wright-Phillips run to slip past Perry Kitchen and behind Boswell. A touch from Luyindula's cultured right foot was the only intervention needed to redirect the captain's cross into the net.

Now up 3:1 on aggregate, with one of those three a crucial away goal, Metro appeared well in control as the Scum would have to find three goals in the last 30 minutes to advance. As much criticism as Petke has faced this year for his substitution patterns, the manager appeared up for the match tactically this time out. The insertion of Eddie Johnson was met with an Alexander for Tim Cahill swap. Luyindula was replaced with the more defensive-minded Ambroise Oyongo in the 76th minute, another savvy move to protect the result.

Petke's work was nearly undone two minutes later when former playoff goat Miller was sent off. The Costa Rican fullback attempted to contest a long pass from midfield with his boot, only to dig his studs into Franklin's shoulder. The unconscionable challenge was met with a straight red from incompetent referee Ismail Elfath, who somehow managed to miss a flagrant handball from Boswell in the box during the first half. As Miller was already suspended from the next match due to yellow card accumulation, the straight red virtually guarantees Oyongo will have to hold down the left fullback role through both legs of the conference final.

With the man advantage, DC threw players forward to try to find those three goals, but could only come up with a single Franklin tally in stoppage time. As the whistle blew for full time, the raucous section holding over 1,250 Metro supporters broke into cheers, drowning out the strained cries of their anguished hosts.

So it wasn't the prettiest game, but finally, FINALLY! Metro overcame the Scum in a playoff series and vanquished yet another demon in their postseason of redemption. Barring an unlikely result tomorrow evening, they will have the opportunity in two weeks to take down the next team on their playoff hit list, the New England Revolution. On to the conference finals!

Lineup: Robles, Miller, Olave, Sekagya, Eckersley, McCarty, Alexander, Luyindula, Sam, Henry, Wright-Phillips. Subs: Cahill, Oyongo, Armando.

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