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Red Bulls, United draw in East semifinal opener

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Associated Press
11/4/2012 12:08:38 AM
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WASHINGTON -- D.C. United is looking for success on the road to advance in the MLS playoffs.

D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls each had a second-half own goal and finished in a 1-1 draw in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.

The series opener was switched to Washington because of Superstorm Sandy. The second leg between second-seeded D.C. United and third-seeded New York will be played on Nov. 7 in New Jersey.

"It's a home and away series and now we have to go away," D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said.

"If we don't get through this, I'm not going to blame it on a home and away series being changed. I won't do that."

The last time D.C. United won a playoff game was at New York in the 2006 Eastern Conference semifinals.

"I have learned that they are a beatable team," Olsen said.

"Here or there -- we can beat this team and there is a great opportunity for us to go to New York and try to do that."

Back in the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2007, D.C. United took the lead in the 61st minute on an own goal by second-half substitute Roy Miller as the defender inadvertently cleared a Chris Korb cross in the back of his net.

Four minutes later, the Red Bulls tied it after D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid knocked the ball into his net while trying to save a deflection after a Thierry Henry corner kick.

The Eastern Conference rivals split the regular season meetings 1-1-1.

D.C. United was forced to play the final 19 minutes with just 10 men after defender Andy Najar picked up his second yellow card, resulting in a red card, for throwing the ball at referee Jair Marrufo after committing a foul.

"I just turned around and threw the ball back and unfortunately the referee was there and it hit him," Najar said.

Najar, the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year, is unavailable for Wednesday's game.

The best chance for D.C. United in the first half came after Red Bulls defender Connor Lade was called for a hand ball in the penalty box. Forward Chris Pontius stepped up to take the penalty kick, but his 33rd-minute attempt was saved by Red Bulls goalie Luis Robles.

"I struck it well," Pontius said. "I just need to put it up in the corner a little bit more."

Notes: D.C. United has defeated New York in each of the previous three playoff matchups -- 1996, 2004, 2006. ... New York defeated D.C. United 3-2 on June 24 in the lone meeting at Red Bull Arena this season.

Lionard Pajoy and Teemu Tainio (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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