Nick DeLeon, left, and D.C. United didn’t have must possession in the first half of a loss to New York. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Chris Pontius’s penalty kick sailed into the cold evening Sunday, clearing the crossbar like a jet leaving nearby Newark airport. Down by a pair of goals in stoppage time, D.C. United was not going to win this MLS match at Red Bull Arena, and Pontius’s wayward attempt was symbolic of a performance that was off-kilter from the opening kickoff.

New York triumphed, 2-0. It looked and felt much worse.

“That’s a [terrible] first half from us,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “I don’t know what we think we’ve earned, what gives us the right to step onto the field in the first half with that type of mentality. That will change, know that.”

United’s first MLS away match of 2015 was not much different from its last road game of 2014: a one-sided playoff setback against the Red Bulls.

Bradley Wright-Phillips scored midway through the first half and assisted Lloyd Sam’s second-half strike for New York (1-0-1), which overran United (1-1-0) in midfield and, aside from a few sporadic scares, was in firm control.

“We know it, we didn’t start well,” captain Bobby Boswell said. “When you start a game that way, especially on the road, you’re going to have a hard time winning. We’ve got to figure it out. Good teams figure it out and teams that miss the playoffs don’t. We like to think of ourselves as being a good team.”

Although United remains shorthanded — 2014 co-leading scorers Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola, plus Eddie Johnson and newcomer Markus Halsti are out — those on the field did not display the critical intangibles that fueled last year’s success: the hunger and chemistry that Olsen demands.

Coming off a two-week break and facing longstanding rivals, Olsen was left deeply disappointed. The Red Bulls, who were also off last weekend, had two-thirds of first-half possession.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that we can have a half that way and then all of a sudden turn up the juice” after intermission, Olsen said. “We talked about it all week: Who’s going to be the team that comes out a little flat after a two-week break? We were late today. We were late to the game.”

The Red Bulls underwent an offseason makeover, losing forwards Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, but still boast Wright-Phillips, whose 27 goals last year equaled the single-season league mark. They also acquired veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who returned to MLS after 41/2 fruitful years in Belgium.

With Kljestan, Dax McCarty and Felipe Martins mixing in central midfield, the Red Bulls were in charge.

In the 25th minute, McCarty targeted Wright-Phillips with a long ball from midfield. Center back Steve Birnbaum did not read it well. The ball dropped to Wright-Phillips, who used a high touch to keep Birnbaum at bay and snapped a 14-yard shot past Bill Hamid.

United did not manufacture many quality chances but should have done better with the ones it did. Chris Rolfe’s angled bid from 12 yards in the 33rd minute was within reach of goalkeeper Luis Robles.

United was better in the second half but continued to lack the combinations and crosses to unlock New York’s resistance. The Red Bulls secured the outcome in the 71st minute when Martins took the ball from Davy Arnaud and supplied Wright-Phillips, who set up Sam for a rising 10-yarder that beat Hamid to the near side.

Robles kept the margin intact in the 77th minute with a splendid reflex save on Rolfe’s six-yard volley. Hamid prevented further damage with a sprawling kick save on Sam in the 83rd.

In the dying moments, after Arnaud was taken down in the box, Pontius pumped his penalty kick into the stands.

“Unacceptable,” he said.

The remark could have applied to every facet of United’s game.

United Notes: Rookie midfielder Miguel Aguilar was a late scratch. No reason was given by the club, which was reduced to six available subs and no attacking sparks in reserve. . . . Silva (hamstring), Johnson (heart condition) and Halsti (knee) remain sidelined. Espindola served the second of his six-game suspension. . . .

United’s is home Saturday against the MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy, which, because of international assignments, will arrive without several regulars, including 2014 MLS MVP Robbie Keane.