D.C. United at New York Red Bulls
Where: Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
When: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
TV: NewsChannel 8.
Records: United 9-17-4, 31 points; Red Bulls 12-11-6, 42 points.
D.C. probable starters: GK Bill Hamid; Ds Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Chris Korb; MFs Paul Arriola, Marcelo Sarvas, Russell Canouse, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber; F Patrick Mullins
N.Y. probable starters: GK Luis Robles; Ds Conor Lade, Fidel Escobar, Aaron Long, Damien Perrinelle, Kemar Lawrence; MFs Sean Davis, Sacha Kljestan, Felipe Martins, Tyler Adams; F Bradley Wright-Phillips
Mullins’s encore to MLS history: United, and specifically striker Patrick Mullins, is aiming to sustain the good vibes from a record-setting weekend. Scoreless in his first 15 appearances, Mullins posted the fastest four-goal performance in MLS history (31 minutes) during the second half of a 4-0 victory over San Jose on Saturday. He also became the first player in 5,031 all-time MLS matches to record four goals in one half, and he did it on four shots.
Exception to the rule: Saturday’s goal total by United equaled the output of its previous five home matches. “We have the type of talent and team that can do this,” Coach Ben Olsen said, “but it just didn’t happen enough this year.” With one huge display, Mullins is now second on the team in goals, one behind Luciano Acosta. Third on the chart: own goal. United has benefited from three misguided touches by the opponent.
Don’t forget the defense: Mullins’s performance overshadowed a strong effort from a back line anchored by captain Steve Birnbaum and Kofi Opare. United has shutouts in four of the past six matches. Goalkeeper Steve Clark made his D.C. debut against the Earthquakes, a move consistent with Olsen’s declaration of testing some secondary players in the last stretch of the season. Bill Hamid (24 starts) seems likely to return to the lineup Wednesday or Saturday at Columbus.
Scouting the Red Bulls: The Red Bulls are winless in six straight (0-2-4) and, with five matches left, stand three points ahead of Montreal for the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth. They are playing for the fourth time in 11 days, a stretch that included a 2-1 defeat at Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup final last Wednesday. Bradley Wright-Phillips’s 16 goals are tied for sixth in MLS; 10 have come in the past 16 outings. He has scored six times in the past seven meetings with United. Sacha Kljestan is tied for third on the MLS assists chart with 14.