The penultimate game of the season for both DC United and New York City FC was a must win for both. A win for United would see them qualify for the post-season playoffs without relying on the result of the New England Revolution's game (which they lost), while a win for City would see them keep pace with their neighbors, the New York Red Bulls, in the race for the Eastern Conference, and ahead of Toronto FC to keep their hopes of a first round bye alive.
City were perhaps the livelier of the two teams at the start of the game, as befitted their league position, with Khiry Shelton effectively running down the right flank...
..eventually releasing David Villa, whose shot hit United's Steve Birnbaum (wearing a concussion preventing helmet after taking a stud to the head in the US game against Cuba last week)
Shelton and the unstoppable Luciano Acosta then battled down the wing
...with both taking a tumble.
Moments later, City's keeper, Josh Saunders, parried a shot from Lloyd Sam that rebounded to the feet of former City player Patrick Mullins, who made no mistake to but United 1-0 up.
Four minutes later, in the 31st minute, United captain Bobby Boswell rose into the air to head a Sam corner away from Saunders, into the lower right hand side of the net, to make it 2-0.
City attempted to come back into the game, with Villa attacking the ball
...but United's Taylor Kemp was there at every turn, harrying and harassing the City players.
When they were able to make it through, United's keeper, Bill Hamid, was there to prevent a goal.
Just on the stroke of half time, Saunders rolled the ball out to Andoni Iraola who inexplicably passed it to Mullins, who was able to reach the ball before Saunders. He then passed it out to the approaching Rob Vincent who slid the ball right down the middle into the open goal, to make it 3-0.
The energy from both teams seemed to step up in the second half
...with Andrea Pirlo earning a yellow card for a rather aggressive tackle on Mullins in the 53rd minute.
The Acosta show continued anew in the 2nd half, as he shimmied his way past the City defenders.
He wasn't the only threat though, Sam...
...and Jared Jeffrey tore down the flanks...
... looking, unsuccessfully, to increase their advantage.
City had their chances too, but Hamid and the defence held strong...
...until the 72nd minute when Kemp was judged to have tripped Villa in the box. The man himself stepped up to convert, and give City a way back into the game.
But try as they might, the United defense refused to let them get back to within a goal...
...and when Kennedy Igboananike was introduced for United in place of Mullins, his fresh legs kept the ball in the City end.
So the game ended with New York City requiring a miracle to pass their neighbors at the top of the conference, but still in charge of whether they finish 2nd or 3rd thanks to Toronto's 2-2 tie with Montreal. United know that they'll be playing Montreal in the first round of the playoffs, but they need to equal or better Montreal's result in the final game for both in order to have home field advantage.