With the results from other matches going their way this weekend, D.C. United's tilt against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night was the perfect opportunity to put themselves in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference.
But despite a Chris Pontius goal within the first 30 seconds of the match and a valiant fightback in the second half, D.C. came up short in a 3-2 road loss as NY now join them atop the Eastern Conference on 30 points.
It was another quick start for United, who have now scored six goals inside the first 15 minutes of matches. But quickly after scoring, United became the second best team on the field, with the Red Bulls taking control of the tempo of the match.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“I don’t think our mentality switched,” Pontius said of his team after his opening goal. “I just think [New York] overloaded the midfield just as [Philadelphia] did [last weekend]. It took us a while to figure it out.”
“Clearly in the first half we didn’t sort out their midfield very well,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said after the match. “Possession dictates shape, and I don’t think we had enough of the ball in the first half, so we were chasing. And it’s hard to last 45 minutes chasing.”
D.C. manager Ben Olsen brought in Maicon Santos, Branko Boskovic and Andy Najar during the second half to address the shortcomings and the changes gave United a fighting chance. Pontius would score a second goal after the break to reduce the deficit to 3-2 and the visitors had opportunities to record the equalizer.
“I thought overall we had some really good attacking stuff,” Olsen said after the game. “Branko was a part of a lot of it. He came in and slowed the game down for us and gave us some real possession. We were a little bit unlucky that we didn’t finish a couple of the chances down the stretch.”
On this day D.C. were done in by former United player Brandon Barklage, who scored twice in the first half to give the Red Bulls the lead.
"I'm happy for Brandon Barklage," Olsen said. "He had two ACL [injuries] in D.C., but he always came to work every day and worked his tail off. It stings that [his goals] come against us, but I'm none the less happy for him."