United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (right) was a difference maker at RBA. (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
HARRISON, N.J. — A tie was more like a defeat for the Red Bulls Sunday.
The Red Bulls played D.C. United to a scoreless draw at Red Bull Arena in a key MLS Eastern Conference encounter.
The result kept United (13-10-10, 49 points) in fourth place in the conference, a point ahead of the Red Bulls (14-13-6, 48) with a game remaining in the regular season. The top four sides in each conference will get home-field advantage in the opening round of the MLS Cup playoffs.
The Red Bulls play at the Montreal Impact on Decision Day, next Sunday.
“I think that if we could imagine what a playoff game at home against D.C. United could look like, that’s exactly what you think it would look like in my opinion, where there’s probably close to 40 fouls at the game,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said.
Defensive superlatives were the talk of the match for the visitors. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a spectacular save of Cristian Casseres Jr.’s shot a minute after Frederic Brillant also made a goal-saving clearance off the line on Tom Barlow’s shot.
It was D.C.’s fourth consecutive clean sheet, the Red Bulls’ third straight.
“It felt like they were coming to play for a draw,” Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips said. “It didn’t seem like they wanted to play for a win. It made it difficult for us. I think we had a few half chances that we could have maybe done better with or were just a bit unfortunate, but it’s not a terrible result it’s just we want to win all the time at home.”
Given that United will play hapless FC Cincinnati in its match next Sunday, this game might have been the Red Bulls’ final home game the season.
“I haven’t thought that way about it because we have belief that we’ll host one,” Armas said. That was coming into tonight, that was the belief. I haven’t thought about that since the game ended.”
United head coach Ben Olsen realized his team was going to grind out a result. Beautiful soccer wasn’t ncessarily on the menu.
“We’re past pretty,” he said. “We had a job to do tonight, to put ourselves in position next week. We did that. The guys gave a heck of an effort throughout. It’s never easy. Their ability to sustain the way they play and deal with the 50-50s and the duels, the up-tempo game that they present is hard to kind of on your end sustain, if you’re not used to that.”