Kaku, who high fives fans prior to the game, had plenty to celebrate after his second-half goal. (Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

HARRISON, N.J. — It wasn’t pretty or anywhere close to a masterpiece, but the Red Bulls certainly will take their 1-0 victory over D.C. United to the bank.

They walked out of Red Bull Arena with three points in their pockets after grinding out a win behind a Kaku goal and surviving a close encounter against United and its hot property, English international Wayne Rooney Sunday night.

The result boosted the Red Bulls (16-6-4, 52 points) within two points of idle Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta United (16-4-6, 54) while eighth-place United (27) fell to 7-10-6.

If the Red Bulls are going to catch Atlanta for the Supporters Shield and Eastern Conference crown, they’re going to have to play better than what they did Sunday night. They showed great grit by grinding out the result, but lacked  creativity and the finishing touch when they did get chances. They probably did not impress former Red Bulls great and Arsenal and French legend Thierry Henry, who watched the game in a rare appearance at RBA.

Kaku, more known for his playmaking than his goal-scoring ability, broke the deadlock in the 56th minute. He intercepted a headed clearance from a corner kick, took a couple of steps to his left and fired away from 23 yards past goalkeeper Bill Hamid for a 1-0 lead and his fourth goal this season.

Kaku Score vs. D.C.

Kaku with the 🚀 shot to put us up 1-0!!!!

Posted by New York Red Bulls on Sunday, August 26, 2018

Video courtesy of the Red Bulls’ Facebook page

The teams battled through a physical and scoreless first half as decent chances were at a premium.

The Red Bulls’ two most attacking players were on the offensive for the opening 45 minutes, but were rewarded for their rough play and not their goal scoring prowess.

Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and midfielder Kaku were awarded yellow cards in the 10th and 37th minutes, respectively, for hard tackles.

Derrick Etienne, Jr. had the hosts’ most dangerous opportunity, streaking in on Hamid, who was forced to make a two-handed save in the 38th minute.

Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles had some help from the woodwork in the 66th minute when Rooney skimmed a seven-yard shot off the crossbar during a goal-mouth scramble.

Rooney was replaced by Darren Mattocks in the 79th minute.