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In praise of Lloyd Sam's work against D.C. United

If it feels like Sam often features in the highlights when RBNY plays DC, it's because he does...

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You saw it: in the 90th minute of the New York Red Bulls' Week 5 trip to DC, RBNY trailing by a goal in a match in which the team had looked sloppy and disjointed, a match the team was clearly destined to lose - until it was not.

Lloyd Sam darted in to follow up a Sacha Klejstan free kick flighted just sodeliberately bounced in front of the 'keeper in the hope Bill Hamid wouldn't gather it cleanly. Hamid obliged; Sam swooped on to the rebound: 2-2. RBNY's unbeaten start to the season was preserved.

Of course it was Lloyd Sam who scored against D.C. United. He has made scoring against DC almost as prevalent a feature of his career with RBNY as his signature move, the "Lloyd Sam chop".

He scored the last time the Red Bulls played DC, on March 22.

In five league games this year, DC has conceded four goals: all to the Red Bulls; two to Lloyd Sam. Not coincidentally, RBNY is the only team so far this year to take points off DCU in MLS: the Black and Red has won each of its other three matches, all 1-0.

Last year, RBNY had trouble cracking DC's code. The Red Bulls went to RFK in April, thrashed the hapless and hated rival in front of its own crowd - and lost 1-0. They did it again in August: outshooting DC by a ratio of 2:1, and losing 2-0. And in September, finally able to confront the old enemy on home ground and a man up for most of the game (Fabian Espindola was sent off in the 32nd minute), RBNY once again battered DC but couldn't find the net.

Until the 90th minute, when Lloyd Sam got his first - and only - shot of the game: 1-0 to the Red Bulls.

And once the Red Bulls knew it was possible to score against DC in 2014, they were on their way: three goals followed in the playoff series between the two teams (Sam contributed an assist to the first) and RBNY had knocked DCU out of the post-season for the first time...ever.

In 2013, DC was terrible. RBNY won two of the three games the teams played that season. And Sam had no impact on the first two (a 0-0 draw and a 2-0 win for the Red Bulls), since he wasn't on the field for either match. But on August 31, 2013, he was in the starting lineup - and he celebrated (he was in and out of the team for most of that season, if you recall) with the game's opening goal.

First goal against DC of his career with his first shot against DC of his career.

Perhaps significantly, Lloyd Sam's RBNY debut was against D.C. United: August 29, 2012 - he played seven minutes in relief of Joel Lindpere as the Red Bulls frantically chased a point. Wilman Conde tied things up in the 88th minute (arguably the highlight of his brief career in the red and white).

Sam missed out on playing in the postseason that year, thereby missing out on one of the more heartbreaking playoff losses to DCU.

But maybe we should send Conde a thank-you for inspiring one the great contributions to RBNY success over its most significant rival, because Sam has been saving some of his best work for DC ever since that first fleeting appearance.

In his RBNY career to date, Lloyd Sam has played D.C. United nine times. The team has won four of those games, lost three and drawn two. It would be exaggerating to call him a "DC killer". He's not even one of RBNY's top-five all-time leading scorers against DC.

But his stats are eye-catching: four goals in those nine games, from just 11 shots attempted, of which eight were on target. That is a 36% shot conversion rate; Sam's career conversion rate in MLS (regular season and playoffs combined) is 18% (67 shots attempted; 33 on target; 12 goals). So he takes his chances against DC twice as often as is generally the case when he plays in MLS.

Also, those four goals represent 33% of his career total in MLS (so far...he has a few more in him, one suspects), and 29% of his career goals for RBNY in all competitions (14). Nine games against DC is 13% of his total MLS appearances (regular season and playoffs), and 12% of his career appearances for RBNY (75 games in all competitions as of Week 5 of MLS 2015). So he has about a third of this goals since moving to New York against an opponent that he has faced in about an eighth of his total appearances.

RBNY hasn't lost a game against DC in which Sam has scored (yet...long may the streak continue). He has now scored in his last three consecutive MLS regular season matches against the Black and Red.

He is not a DC killer. Not yet. But he just hammered the fourth nail into a project that increasingly looks like a black-and-red coffin.

His next crack at DC is likely to arrive on August 30th: the day after the third anniversary of his debut for RBNY; the day after the first time, three years ago, he got a taste of the rivalry he seems to enjoy so much. It would be a fitting occasion for another reason to celebrate his dedication to the Red Bulls' cause.