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.”

Seth Allen's late 3-pointer lifts Virginia Tech past Clemson

Seth Allen's late 3-pointer lifts Virginia Tech past Clemson

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Seth Allen's 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to play carried Virginia Tech to a 71-70 victory over Clemson on Tuesday night.

Zach LeDay scored 19 points for the Hokies (19-8, 8-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who also beat the Tigers by a point on Jan. 22. Virginia Tech won for the third time in four games and moved to 14-1 at home this season.

The loss was the latest in series of excruciating defeats for the Tigers (14-13, 4-11), who dropped their fifth game in their past six outings. Clemson is now 3-10 in games decided by six points or less.

Clemson's Marcquise Reed hit a baseline jumper with 21.6 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 70-68 lead. Out of a timeout, Allen missed a layup with 10 seconds left, and LeDay got the rebound, but the ball was knocked out of his hands and went out of bounds off Clemson.

Virginia Tech then worked the ball to Allen, who buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Allen finished with eight points.

Reed led the Tigers with 18 points.

MORE NCAA HOOPS: Virginia, Maryland continue sliding down in the polls

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Report: Wizards interested in T'Wolves' former 1st round pick

Report: Wizards interested in T'Wolves' former 1st round pick

Now that Lou Williams has been dealt from the Lakers to the Rockets, the Wizards and other teams have to look elsewhere for bench options with Thursday's trade deadline looming. According to a new report from ESPN, Washington could turn to Timberwolves guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad.

The connection was first drawn by Marc Stein, who tweeted this on Tuesday:

Muhammad, 24, is an interesting option as a former 14th overall pick who has performed well this season off Minnesota's bench. He's averaging a modest 9.4 points in 19.6 minutes per game, but shoots 47.1 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from three.

Muhammad doesn't rebound or play much defense at all, but he has turned into a fairly lethal shooter, which could come in handy as the Wizards seek a scoring punch for their bench, particularly at the shooting guard position. Even after going 0-for-8 from three in his last four games, Muhammad holds a 48.6 three-point percentage going back to Dec. 21.

It's hard to tell what it would take for the Wizards to get Muhammad, who is set to hit free agency this summer. The Timberwolves have reason to part with him, given they are 13th in the Western Conference and unlikely to make the playoffs. They might as well get something for him while they can, if they don't plan on re-signing him. But if Muhammad becomes attainable for other teams, he could generate considerable interest as a three-point threat.

[RELATED: Lou Williams no longer a trade option for Wizards]