With just minutes remaining, it appeared that the New York Red Bulls were destined to suffer their first loss of 2015.
Lloyd Sam had other ideas.
In recent weeks, it had been D.C. United who managed the late-game heroics, netting stoppage-time winners in their past two games. But the tables were turned at RFK Stadium on Saturday, as United saw their 2-0 lead vanish in the waning minutes, courtesy of Sam’s last-gasp equalizer.
After a fast start that saw RBNY dictate the tempo of the match, the home side began to impose their will. The Red Bulls conceded the opening goal to Perry Kitchen in the 26th minute, but it wasn’t until Kitchen completed his brace in the second half that New York would manage to find a response.
“The first half went a little bit both ways,” head coach Jesse Marsch said. “They played very direct because they knew we were trying to press them, so we had to deal with some tough moments there and some second balls which we kind of knew was going to happen.”
As the match wore on, it looked as though United would earn a measure of revenge for the Red Bulls' dominant victory in their first matchup of the season. But New York refused to lie down.
“It says a lot,” Sam said of his team’s mentality. “We could have easily shriveled up and died. They could’ve maybe got another, who knows. It was always going to be difficult but we stayed in there. The whole team – the management, the bench – everyone stayed in there and we got our rewards.”
Beating goalkeeper Bill Hamid and the United defense was no small task. Entering the match, D.C. were riding a two-game shutout streak stretching back to the teams' March meeting. With their backs against the wall, New York responded in a big way.
“The second goal really woke us up,” Marsch said postgame. “To see us respond the way we did after going down 2-0 on the road, certainly [it was] a moment where I think the team came together really well, and a moment where I’m really proud of the guys and how they stuck together.”
Despite being frustrated for large stretches of the game, the Red Bulls did just enough to stay undefeated thanks to their never-say-die attitude.
“Our mentality has been great, and that comes from Jesse,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “He’s given us the confidence – no matter what happens in games – to come back and keep on fighting. We did it Columbus well, we did it in Kansas City well, and continued to do that tonight.”