DCU ready for second leg of playoff against New York Red Bulls

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DCU ready for second leg of playoff against New York Red Bulls

For tension and emotion, perhaps not soccer, the rivalry between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls did not disappoint in Saturday’s playoff opener at R.F.K. Stadium. A 1-1 result in that game has set the stage for a dramatic series finale Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

In the regular season the two teams combined for 14 goals in three games, but in game one of their Eastern Conference semifinal United and the Red Bulls had to rely on own goals to secure a point. The game was also marked by Chris Pontius’ missed penalty kick and a red card to United defender Andy Najar. 

“We have no fear of going up to New York and playing them there,” said United president Kevin Payne. “We lost 3-2 to them this year. We played very poorly in the first half of that game, but we absolutely dominated them in the second half of that game. There is no question in the minds of anybody in this room that we can go up to New York and win the game.”

It will be difficult. The Red Bulls have been a hard side to figure out. Their second leading scorer Kenny Cooper did not play in the first match. It’s an example of the unpredictability of a team filled with quality that failed to win consecutive matches over the last two months of the season.

“We’ve been strong at home – we just only lost one game this season against Kansas City, otherwise we’ve been winning most of the games,” said Red Bulls’ head coach Hans Backe. “But I mean, it’s the playoffs now and it’ll probably be almost the same type of game, very even. It can end up the same way and go to penalty or shootout, whatever it is. But it will be tight.”

Confidence is clearly not in short supply in the Black and Red camp. With Saturday’s result United, although disappointed to not snare three points, is now unbeaten in its last eight games. That eight game run has come without Dwayne De Rosario because of a knee injury and now Najar’s red card will force more change.

“The way he (Najar) can attack from the right fullback position, he’s a threat all day long, so they of course will miss him,” Backe said. “It will help us for our defense, definitely, so we can look into that. Attacking-wise, I’m not sure, but definitely defensively.”

Although it has not been announced by head coach Ben Olsen, Robbie Russell is the likely choice to fill-in for Najar at right back. In 14 of his 16 starts this season, Russell played at right back. Russell’s season was derailed in mid-July by a foot injury. Russell, who won a title with Real Salt Lake, would give United much-needed playoff experience if he is called on.

“Every playoff team you play on is unique,” noted Russell. “This team is the epitome of team. On any given night someone else has stepped up for us big. I am looking forward to see who steps up big for us this coming game.”

In attack Lionard Pajoy has become more of a force for United and provided essential goals in a win over Philadelphia and a tie with Chicago in the regular season finale. Twice in the final seven games of the regular season Lewis Neal came off the bench to score game-winners. Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi have also come off the bench to score and deliver three points to United.

“We have to match their intensity up there and we’ve got to play offensively up there like we did down here,” said Pontius.”It’s a ninety minute game out there and it would be even sweeter to take it from them at their home field.”

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Wizards vs. Bucks: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Wizards vs. Bucks: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

The Washington Wizards host the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS vs. MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Where: Verizon Center
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m.
TV: CSN (Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Live stream: CSNmidatlantic.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

Consistency on defense

The Wizards felt good about their performance on defense against the Nuggets on Thursday night, as they held a strong offensive team to just 85 points, including 33 in the second half and 12 in the fourth quarter. Now they have to carry that effort over from game to game, something that has been difficult for them to do so far this season.

Just look at the contrast between the Nuggets game and what happened in their previous two outings. Against the Nets on Monday they won, but only after allowing 66 points in the first half. And on Tuesday they lost to the Magic after allowing them their season-high of 124 points, including 73 from the bench alone. Milwaukee isn't a juggernaut offensively, but they are above average with 102.4 points per game (12th in NBA) and a 45.9 field goal percentage (8th).

[RELATED: Morris: 'Wall is the voice and I'm like the muscle']

Watch out for Giannis and Jabari

The Wizards will have their hands full with the Bucks' two young stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Antetokounmpo, 22, is averaging 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.2 blocks and 2.0 steals per game, all the while shooting 51.6 percent. That's as well-rounded a stat line as you will see in the game of basketball. He's a 6-foot-11 big man who can run their offense as a point guard. Matching up with him is no easy task, no matter the personnel on defense

Parker, 21, is scoring 19.6 points per game to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists. The former second overall pick is blossoming into an elite scorer this season.

The Wizards are likely to try their lineup with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, Jr. on the floor together against the Bucks to counter Milwaukee's versatility:

"They've got a lot of length out there with Giannis and Jabari," Oubre said. "We've gotta match their energy or have more energy than them out there and pretty much run them into the ground. If we get into a halfcourt set, it's going to tough to score overtop of them."

More work for Gortat

With news that Ian Mahinmi will remain shut down for at least the next week despite his latest MRI clearing him of any structural damage, that means the workload will remain heavy for Marcin Gortat as the Wizards continue to play thin at the center position. Gortat already leads the team in minutes played (743) and has logged at least 36 minutes in six of his last seven games. 

Gortat is working hard, but he's okay with that according to his coach.

"He constantly reminds me that he's the Polish Machine and that he can play any amount of minutes as possible. He keeps telling me that if we go overtime that he can play 53 minutes. I like his heart and his determination, but I would like to keep it down in the low 30s. But he's feeling good. As a staff, we monitor his workload during practice," Brooks said.

[RELATED: Wizards send rookie McClellan to D-League]

Navy fan trolls Army with video game-inspired Army-Navy GameDay sign

Navy fan trolls Army with video game-inspired Army-Navy GameDay sign

At the end of the day, the Army-Navy rivalry is one of respect. With that being said, that doesn't mean Navy and their fans can't poke a little fun at Army for losing 14-straight games in the rivalry.

Game over. Flawless victory.

More from Army-Navy: An Army-Navy preview with Rich DeMarco and Omar Nelson