WASHINGTON – Neither side could emerge victorious on Saturday evening as two bitter rivals battled for the second time in less than a month when D.C. United welcomed the New York Red Bulls to RFK Stadium.
D.C. looked to avenge a late-March loss to New York – their only defeat of the season – while New York took the pitch looking to leapfrog United and wrap their hands around the Atlantic Cup title with months to spare.
A pair of Perry Kitchen goals seemed like they’d be enough for United. But Damien Perrinelle's header and a late Lloyd Sam equalizer salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Red Bulls, pushing this year’s installment of MLS' oldest rivalry trophy to a decisive third match.
Both teams traded speculative jabs during the game’s opening 20 minutes. Last year's MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips and teammate Chris Duvall provided the Red Bulls with a pair of chances from opposite flanks in the 9th and 13th minutes, but neither posed any significant threat to United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
D.C. winger Chris Rolfe landed United’s first volley of the match in the 18th, when he streaked down the left side and fired in a shot from 18 yards out, which was pushed aside by Red Bulls 'keeper Luis Robles.
United nabbed the opener in the 26th minute on a picture-perfect header. Defender Taylor Kemp – taking his first corner kick in nearly two years – played a pinpoint left-footed service into the goalmouth for an unmarked Kitchen.
Taking advantage of heavy traffic in the six-yard box to free himself from his defender, United's holding midfielder rose high above Robles and hammered his effort into the back of the net from six yards out.
The normally defensive-minded Kitchen would strike again on the other side of halftime.
Rolfe collected the ball near the left sideline about 30 yards from goal, dribbling across the top of the box before touching the ball over to Kitchen. He made no mistake with his well-placed finish, firing a rope low and to the right of a diving Robles.
United’s jubilation was short-lived. Less than a minute later, Perrinelle pulled one back for New York, the Red Bulls center back wrestling off a pair of D.C. defenders on a corner kick before nodding home his side’s first of the evening from eight yards out.
D.C. had a handful of opportunities to put the game away. In the 75th minute, substitute Luis Silva – who last week used a dipping free kick to dash Orlando City’s hopes in the final seconds – struck a similar effort from 22 yards out. But this one was turned away from goal by a well-positioned Dax McCarty.
New York’s efforts to equalize seemed listless at first. An 84th-minute attempt from Wright-Phillips was driven directly at Hamid, and a minute later, second-half substitute Dane Richards was unable to take advantage of a careless turnover in the box, tapping his effort into Hamid's arms.
But the Red Bulls would strike in the 90th minute. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan sent in a driven free kick from 24 yards out, one which Hamid was unable to gather cleanly. The ensuing rebound fell directly into the path of an onrushing Sam, who smashed home the equalizer, sending New York’s sizable traveling contingent into delirium.
D.C. will return to action next Saturday evening at RFK against the Houston Dynamo, while the Red Bulls face a short week as they prepare to welcome the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday.