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Bad start against rivals results in costly loss for D.C. United at home

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BWP’s early goal was enough for United to suffer their first home loss of the season

10 days after opening Audi Field up in style against the Vancouver Whitecaps, D.C. United were hoping for similar joy against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday evening. United were winless in five against the Bulls coming into the game, but hoped that the friendly confines of their new home would provide an advantage.

Instead, the Red Bulls rained on their parade, as a game delayed by bad weather was decided in the second minute of the game, when Bradley Wright-Phillips scored for a 1-0 decision.

“We didn’t come out ready enough,” midfielder Chris Durkin told B&RU in the locker room after the game. “It’s a rivalry, they are going to come out ready for the game. We didn’t come out fast enough.”

Sitting on 99 career goals in regular season play in MLS, Wright-Phillips corralled a pass from Kaku in the box, cut back against Frederic Brillant, and fired under David Ousted for his 100th goal, celebrating but taking off his jersey to reveal another one with the number 100 on the back.

“He’s too good, he’s too consistent,” Olsen said of Wright-Phillips. “His movement is as good as anyone this league has ever seen. He’s been a good player for them.”

For United, who were looking to rebound after a 3-1 loss to Atlanta United over the weekend, it was exactly the start they wanted to avoid. And they were likely fortunate to enter the half down just the one goal, as the Red Bulls came close on several occasions to adding to their lead.

“We were on our heels, and we got spooked early,” Head Coach Ben Olsen said of his team’s start in his post game press conference. “So we lacked some of the aggression, as far as stepping with the backline.”

In the second half, United’s fortunes changed, to an extent. No longer were the being constantly pushed back by the Red Bulls, as the Black-and-Red started to create chances of their own. But on the night, United couldn’t convert chances into goals, which ultimately cost them.

For just the second time this season, United were shut out, the only other time coming back on March 31st, in a 1-0 loss away at Sporting Kansas City.

“We didn’t take our chances, and it cost us the game,” Wayne Rooney said after the game.

Rooney had a couple of those chances himself, as he was brought on as a second half substitute, replacing Darren Mattocks, who had an ineffective night, as did much of the team, in front of goals.

But Rooney was also involved in a play in which the Black-and-Red were incensed that they were not rewarded a penalty from referee Armando Villarreal. Rooney brought a long pass from Durkin down, but appeared to taken down in some fashion by defender Tim Parker, either just outside or inside the box.

Everyone from United protested, but Villarreal waved on play, much to the chagrin of United.

“I think it is a clear foul,” Rooney said after the game. “But sometimes the decisions are difficult for the referees.”

“I thought the ref was poor tonight,” Olsen said after the game, speaking in general about how Villarreal called the game. “We didn’t get a shake all night long. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

Despite that, there were still opportunities for United to grab at least a point in front of an announced crowd of 15,655. Rooney had a chance taken away from him at the top of the box by Kemar Lawrence, and another shot from in front of goal was blocked away. Yamil Asad had a shot saved by Luis Robles, while also having a shot from close range blocked by Aaron Long.

“That hasn’t been our issue for most of the season,” Olsen said of his team’s inability to convert chances on Wednesday night. “We’ve been efficient with our chances. We created plenty of looks, and that’s important.”

If United are to climb out of the cellar in the Eastern Conference and make the playoffs this year, they can’t afford many nights like this. With just 17 games left on the season, United still might need to earn 30 to 35 points to make it back into the playoffs after last year’s absence.

They’ll get another chance on Saturday, when they host the Colorado Rapids. Olsen will likely make a couple of changes to his squad on short rest, though he’ll definitely have to replace Paul Arriola, who will miss the game due to yellow card accumulation.

“Certainly there will be some fresh bodies on the field, it’s a quick turnaround,” Olsen said of what his rotation might look like against Colorado.