Brandon Barklage. Photo: MLS Netwrok / Getty
HARRISON – It was in late January when D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen called Brandon Barklage into his office to deliver the bad news. The team that Barklage played with for three seasons was allowing him to seek employment elsewhere.
“It was real emotional with the ties I have with D.C.,” Barklage said. “I still have good friends there. I have a lot of history there. I spent three good years there.”
Sunday night, Barklage got his revenge against the club that cut him loose six months ago.
The New York Red Bulls midfielder scored the first two goals of his MLS career, leading the Red Bulls to a huge 3-2 victory over their archrival D.C. United before a sellout crowd of 25,187 fans at Red Bull Arena.
“It feels unbelievable,” Barklage said. “It took me four years to get a goal in MLS, but I guess it came at the right time.”
The Red Bulls overcame surrendering a goal in the first 30 seconds of the match to improve to 9-4-3 overall and remain undefeated at home (5-0-2) for the season. The win also enabled the Red Bulls to draw even at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Both teams now have 30 points.
D.C. United (9-5-3) wasted little time taking control of the match. Just 30 seconds in, former Red Bull Dwayne DeRosario made a fine play up the right flank, passing the ball ahead to Danny Cruz.
Cruz totally embarrassed beleaguered Red Bulls defender Roy Miller, who once again misread a play and enabled Cruz to move in unguarded. Cruz then put the ball right to striker Chris Pontius, who knocked it past Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara. Meara had come out of the goal to try to stop Pontius to no avail. It was DeRosario’s ninth assist of the season, which leads the league.
Soon after the goal, the Red Bulls played inspired soccer and controlled the action. In the third minute, Dax McCarty had an open shot from 25 yards out, but his left-footed blast clanked off the crossbar. In the ninth minute, Rafa Marquez, making a return after missing two games due to a calf injury, took a direct free kick after DeRosario touched the ball in the box. Marquez’s blast sailed high wide over the crossbar.
In the 11th minute, Mehdi Ballouchy had a great scoring chance, but his header was tipped aside by a diving David Hamid in goal for D.C. United.
Eight minutes later, the Red Bulls got on the board, beginning Barklage’s night to remember. Joel Lindpere took a corner kick and Barklage somehow made a flying attempt at the ball. He connected although he was a good four feet off the ground and his first-ever MLS goal tied the game at 1-1 in the 19thminute.
“I had only one thing in mind,” Barklage said. “I was going to shoot the ball. I was fortunate to get to the ball. It was great to get the equalizer because when they scored the first goal so early, that was a dagger.”
Right before halftime, it was Barklage who gave the Red Bulls the lead for good. Marquez took another direct free kick from 20 yards out, but the shot was stopped by the D.C. United line. However, the deflection caromed right to Barklage, who was wide open just one step inside the box and his right-footed blast sailed past Hamid to the far right of Hamid. Barklage had two goals and both came from coming from nowhere. The goal came in first half added time and the call angered Olsen, who chased the officiating crew into the locker room at halftime, voicing his displeasure.
The Red Bulls increased the lead to 3-1 in the 55th minute, when Jan Gunnar Solli scored his first-ever MLS goal on a rebound of his own shot. Solli’s initial shot was stopped by Hamid, but the alert Solli followed the play to perfection.
In the 67th minute, D.C. United drew closer, when Pontius snuck behind the Red Bulls defense and collected a perfect pass from Maicon Santos for his second goal of the game and eighth of the season, slicing the lead to 3-2.
But that was all D.C. United could muster, as the Red Bulls continued their late-game defensive prowess. It marked the 37th straight time that the Red Bulls did not allow a goal in the final 15 minutes of regulation.
There was good news for the Red Bulls, as Thierry Henry entered the game in the 69th minute as a substitute. Henry missed the last two games and six out of the last seven with calf and hamstring injuries. Henry managed to get two shots on goal in his brief stint, but it was a welcome sight to see him back on the pitch.
Marquez left the game in the 86th minute, apparently grabbing the calf that gave him problems of late.
The Red Bulls return to action next Saturday night, when they face Toronto north of the border in Canada. Game time is 7 p.m.