Despite an early goal from Jose Ortiz and some good passing sequences, D.C. United were knocked out of the 2017 US Open Cup tonight by the New England Revolution. The 2-1 defeat was the first time in over three years that the Revs had beaten the Black-and-Red in any competition, with New England’s goals coming from Diego Fagundez - on an inspired free kick in the 44th minute - and rookie Brian Wright moments into the second half.
With this game falling in the middle of the most grueling portion of United’s schedule, Ben Olsen predictably made plenty of changes. The 4231 seen lately stayed in place, but Travis Worra took over for Bill Hamid (Gold Cup) in goal. Jalen Robinson and Sean Franklin - in his first appearance in weeks - replaced Steve Birnbaum and Kofi Opare at center back, while Chris Korb spelled Taylor Kemp at left back. The final of the five changes was Julian Buescher, giving Luciano Acosta a rest.
United were quite lucky to get out of the first five minutes without conceding. A New England corner seemed to confuse the DCU defense. Jeffrey appeared to get a head to the ball, but it went backward, and chaos ensued inside the box. Eventually it fell to Teal Bunbury, whose volley snaked through traffic only to thump the foot of Worra’s left post before bouncing away.
It wasn’t a good start, but the response was perfect. After winning a couple of fouls inside the New England half, United gave themselves a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute. The Black-and-Red got the ball into the box, but appeared to have nowhere to go. Buescher, surrounded by three defenders and barely a yard from the endline, managed to do just enough to keep the ball in and pass back to Harkes. With the cluster of Revs around Buescher, Harkes had the space to pick Ortiz out first time, and Ortiz hurled himself at the ball, nodding it past Brad Knighton with a diving header.
Both teams showed some ideas going forward, particularly when they were able to break out with speed. Fagundez - playing as the #10 for New England on the night - looked quite bright in the early stages, while Ortiz seemed quite confident after his goal. At the other end, a one-two between Bunbury and Fagundez looked threatening, only for Bunbury’s return pass to give Fagundez no chance at a shot. New England’s mobile attack also resulted in Jeffrey getting booked after 10 minutes.
A 31st minute ball into the area from Fagundez caused some panic for United, with Wright lurking as the ball pinged around the turf. Worra and Robinson both hesitated momentarily over the loose ball before Robinson thumped it clear. New England wasn’t done, though, with Je-Vaughn Watson charging through a briefly passive midfield to take a shot that Robinson took some momentum off before Worra made a simple save.
The Revs were growing into the game, and while United had some spells of possession in an attempt to slow the game down, the next shot was a long range effort that skipped wide from Femi Hollinger-Janzen in the 36th minute. United pushed back, first with Korb winning a foul in the attacking third that got London Woodberry booked in the 37th minute, and then an attack involving Buescher and Sebastien Le Toux that just needed a final pass from the young German to work out.
Fagundez was still causing trouble, and it was no surprise that he ended up getting the equalizer. A debatable foul was called on Franklin after Wright went down at the restraining arc. Given a 23 yard free kick in a perfect position, Fagundez stepped up to provide a spectacular piece of skill, curling the ball over the wall and in to tie things up in the 44th minute.
The second half got underway in much the same fashion as the first ended. Wright, who took 35 or so minutes to start making an impact, suddenly was a major threat. He struck the post in the 47th minute, but wouldn’t be denied a minute later. Donnie Smith’s ball into the box didn’t appear to be a major threat, but Franklin appeared to over-commit. Wright used that to turn onto the bouncing ball and face goal, chasing the bouncing ball down to fire a shot that beat Worra five-hole in the 48th minute.
United pushed numbers forward in an effort to equalize quickly, but the Revs had the next big chance. A ball over the top caught the Black-and-Red with both fullbacks pushing up, and Wright was in a footrace with Robinson. The latter did just enough to slow him down, but Wright still managed to touch the ball to his left before firing a shot that bounced past Worra only to go just wide.
After Joshua Smith was booked for barging Ortiz down in the 57th minute, some clever footwork from Neagle saw United go close to an equalizer. Buescher found Neagle inside the box, but it seemed like there was too much to do to turn it into a look. Neagle, however, danced on the ball to buy himself some space, and his shot flew just inches over.
United were starting to really press, with Buescher peeling wide left before firing a low cross that somehow rolled through the six yard box without anyone touching it past Knighton. Olsen then used his first sub, bringing Marcelo Sarvas in for Harkes to freshen his team up in the midfield. Neagle and Buescher were again involved in the next shot for United, but Buescher couldn’t get full contact on a volley after a cross bounced off of Le Toux and sat up nicely for him.
The Revs took charge for a while after that, especially after Jay Heaps brought starters Kei Kamara, Andrew Farrell, and Lee Nguyen in. Herivaux barely missed finishing United off in the 75th minute following a corner kick scramble that the visitors didn’t deal with properly, but the New England homegrown midfielder shot wide of a gaping net.
United went as close as they could to an equalizer in the 80th minute. A series of corner kicks finally saw a good delivery paired with good runs, and Buescher’s service in saw Le Toux beat his man to head on goal. Knighton was beaten, but the crossbar was not, and D.C. couldn’t get to the rebound to get themselves level.
Olsen finally made his roll of the dice, bringing Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko in for Buescher and Neagle. Still, the next good look either way went to the Revs, who saw Franklin give away yet another foul on the edge of the box. Nguyen, after discussion with Fagundez, shot through a poor attempt at a wall from United, but the shot was also poor and made for easy work for Worra.
At the other end, United carved out another big chance with a bit of luck. A cross from the right wing by Odoi-Atsem fooled Benjamin Angoua, who missed his attempt to head clear. That left Acosta wide open, but the Argentine mis-timed his swing and ended up slicing a shot well wide.
United had an injury scare in the 90th minute as Watson crashed into Nyarko on the top of the box, but the winger eventually played on. Sadly for the Black-and-Red, their stoppage time push for a goal took too long to get going, and only offered up a desperate pair of penalty shouts - in both cases, the referee appeared to correctly wave the claims away - and some awkward crosses that were cleared.
The Black-and-Red will have to turn things around quickly. United play again this Saturday, facing the Montreal Impact in Quebec in a game that both teams desperately need to win if they’re to keep pace with the Eastern Conference’s playoff sides.