DU Alum Joe Willis Saves Season For DC United

(above) 11 minute highight video

DC United eliminated the New York Red Bulls 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the MLS playoffs on Thursday night. But it was the heroics of a recent University of Denver graduate that turned the tide of the game and enabled DC United to steal a famous victory on the road.

DC United starting goaltender Bill Hamid was given a red card midway through the second half. Hamid was ejected for taking down New York's Kenny Cooper at the edge of the penalty area. Moments later his replacement, University of Denver alum Joe Willis, stopped Cooper’s penalty kick after the New York striker’s successful attempt was nullified by a teammate’s encroachment violation.

Cooper had been 10 for 10 on penalty kicks this season.

Willis, a second-year pro who made 10 regular season starts this year, entered in the 70th minute under most difficult circumstances: to face a penalty kick. Cooper converted, but the referee nullified it because Thierry Henry had entered the area before the shot.

On Cooper’s second attempt, Willis guessed correctly, sliding to his left to block the low shot. “You don’t have a lot of time to think when something like that happens,” said Willis, who will start Sunday in Houston for the suspended Hamid. “I was just moving as fast as I could to get out there.”

DC Rookie Nick DeLeon scored in the 88th minute to secure the 1-0 victory and passage to MLS’s Eastern Conference finals.

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