After holding 1st position in the Eastern Conference for most of the season, DC United had a chance for a 1st round bye if they beat Columbus. The suffered their heaviest defeat ever 5-0, dropping them to 4th position, and a 1st round tie against the New England Revolution. A one-off game for the chance to meet the New York Red Bulls in the Conference Semi-final.
The two teams haven't met in the playoffs since 2006, when the Revolution went through with a 1-0 win, but with both teams not having been in particularly good form, the feeling was that the game could go either way.
The Revolution began with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Agudelo up front, while United started out using a 4-4-2 with Rolfe and Espindola leading the charge.
The first chance of the evening fell to DC United, as Chris Rolfe was played through by Chris Pontius
...only to be denied by the Revolution's keeper, Bobby Shuttleworth
The Revolution then began to press forwards
...on one occasion, somewhat artistically...
on the 15 minute mark the Revolution's Kevin Alston crossed the ball
...and Juan Aguldelo flipped in the air to drive a beautiful bicycle kick into the net, and give the Revolution a 1-0 lead on the night.
After that the action fizzed around both sides of the field, with chances for United
...and New England
...with both teams contesting every ball
In the 42nd minute a piledriver of a shot from Fabian Espindola
...had Shuttleworth screaming at his defense to close down the attackers, and not allow them to shoot.
Three minutes later, as Espindola chased another through ball...
Shuttleworth's defense showed they'd listened by upending Espindola...
...for a free kick, which he sent into the box
...to be met by the head of Chris Pontius who placed it perfectly to tie the score at the half 1-1
The second half began slightly slower than the first had ended, but still, with both teams working hard
...and their defenses helping out
As the game reached the latter stages, United seemed to have the advantage, as several attacks flowed down the flanks
In the 75th minute a cross from the United substitute Alvaro Saborio
....hit the hand of Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell, and despite his protestations, a penalty was awarded
...which Chris Rolfe took... and drove into the base of the goalpost.
As the game continued, both teams sensed that a mistake would be the end of their season, so they began diving into tackles
and leaping to get the ball away from their goal
In the 83rd minute Nick DeLeon physically pushed his way through the New England defense
...before flipping the ball backwards into the path of Espindola
...who crossed to Rolfe, who tucked the ball in the back of the net, redeeming himself for the earlier penalty miss.
In the remaining 7 minutes, New England had a few chances to equalize
...and as they pressed forward, that also allowed United to go on the attack
In the first minute of injury time the Revolution's Jermaine Jones crossed the ball into the box, and appeared to strike United's Sean Franklin on the arm. The referee indicated that it was not intentional. Jones took exception to this ruling, both verbally and physically, which left the referee no choice except to issue him with a red card. Jones then had to be restrained by his team mates, before finally leaving the field of play, slapping the corner flag, and kicking the advertising hoardings on his way.
The game ended with United successfully fighting to keep the ball deep inside the Revolution half
Their victory now means that they meet the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at RFK Stadium in the first leg of a home and home series to determine who makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals.