WASHINGTON — After coming away with a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United headed up to the Big Apple for the second leg facing a daunting statistic: United failed to win on the road against any of the remaining playoff teams this season.
But given D.C.’s performance in the first leg, optimism isn’t lacking.
“I feel confident,” United center back Dejan Jakovic said. “I’ll take my players over their players any day of the week.”
Jakovic stressed the importance of weathering the expected storm, both figuratively and literally, given the probability that the Red Bulls will press early and the ominous Nor’easter forecast for the New York area on Wednesday evening.
“The first 15-20 minutes is going to be vital for us in the New York game,” he said. “You don’t want to receive a goal that early. Then you can be in trouble. We know they’re going to come out pressing hard. If we can calm the storm, the game’s going to settle down, and we’ll be able to start playing.”
Despite generally poor road form this season, United have played well recently away from RFK Stadium, and are unbeaten in four road matches, as well as unbeaten in their last eight overall.
“I think we’re excited with the way we went about it the other night, but unfulfilled,” manager Ben Olsen said. “We have a huge job ahead of us to make sure we go there and get the result we need.”
There’s little doubt, however, that United have their work cut out for them. Historically, 19 two-game series have seen the home team either lose or tie the first leg. Only five times has that team earned the result necessary to advance.
“Everyone doubted us in [the first] game and I still feel like everyone’s doubting us going into New York,” Jakovic said. “But I believe in our guys and definitely think we can get the job done.”
Full Match Highlights: Leg 1