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New York Red Bulls claim 2018 Atlantic Cup with 1-0 win over D.C. United

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For the second time this season, United were held scoreless against their rivals

D.C. United remain without a win in New Jersey since 2012, as the New York Red Bulls won the Atlantic Cup with a 1-0 win on Sunday night. Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra fired past Bill Hamid in the 56th minute for his 4th goal of the season. The Red Bulls, who beat United 1-0 at Audi Field last month, claimed the Atlantic Cup trophy for the second year in a row. The teams finish up their season series next month, with another game down at Buzzard Point.

In the 89th edition of the rivalry, United could not manage to keep a three-game winning streak, or five game point streak alive. And the loss was the 11th time in a row that United has failed to win a game at Red Bull Arena, a run that dates back to Nick DeLeon’s late playoff winner in 2012.

For the third consecutive game, head coach Ben Olsen used the same lineup and the same formation for the Black-and-Red. Last month, at Audi Field, Darren Mattocks got the start up top in a 4-1-4-1. But on Sunday night, it was Wayne Rooney as the lone striker, as United ran out in a 4-2-3-1, the same formation that the Red Bulls were utilizing.

United need to avoid defeat to have a chance to win the Atlantic Cup, and gave themselves a chance early, with Yamil Asad playing out wide to Paul Arriola. Arriola’s first cross intended for Rooney was punched away by Luis Robles. A second go found Asad in the box, but his acrobatic effort was over the goal from eight yards out.

Rooney had a look from a free kick in the 9th minute, with the ball outside the top of the box on the right hand side. Rooney’s effort was on target, but Robles parried it away, though United won another free kick right away.

Rooney’s service into the box was too long, and New York quickly broke forward. Derrick Etienne eventually centered a pass, which Marc Rzatkowski dummied at the top of the box. The pass got out to Daniel Royer, who just had Bill Hamid to beat, but the midfielder fired well over from close range.

In the 25th minute, midfielder Junior Moreno found a pocket of space outside the box, and fired a shot goalward. Robles did enough to send the shot wide, but Asad raced to the endline to keep the play alive. Asad then lifted a cross to the far post, finding Oniel Fisher, who, faced with a glorious opportunity, could not keep his header down.

A turnover from Russell Canouse provided the Red Bulls with a goal-scoring chance in the 35th minute, as Derrick Etienne won possession in United’s box. Etienne quickly found Kaku, whose one-timer failed to find the target.

Three minutes later, Etienne was played into the attacking half from a pass by Bradley Wright-Phillips, with the defense for United scrambling to get into position. Etienne shot from the top of the box, forcing Hamid into a save to keep the game scoreless.

Just before the end of the half, Asad went down after a fair tackle from Kemar Lawrence, seeming to be concerned about his left ankle. The Argentine gutted out the final minutes of the first half, and came back out for the second half, but was replaced by Zoltan Stieber in the 49th minute after going down from another collision.

Etienne and Kaku combined again to create the first chance of the second half in the 52nd minute. A cross from the right from Etienne took a deflection on its way through the box, finding Kaku at the far post. MLS’s assist leader tried to prod a shot post Hamid, but United’s stopper was equal to the effort.

There was nothing Hamid could do in the 56th minute though, as Kaku found the breakthrough from a shot from outside the box. A cross from Rzatkowski was headed down, but fell to Kaku just outside the box. Kaku’s first touch wasn’t great, but he still skipped around Stieber, and then tagged a low bullet through traffic to give the Red Bulls took a 1-0 lead.

United had to survive some pressure after the goal, but finally started to create some chances of their own. In the 66th minute, Rooney found Luciano Acosta at the top of the box, who helped the ball out wide. Stieber had a left-footed shot lined up, but Aaron Long came up with a block inside the box.

Moments later, Rooney had his best look of the game, only to be denied by the woodwork. Acosta and Fisher failed to get shots off in a scramble in the box following a cross from Joseph Mora. The ball fell to Rooney, who ripped a shot past Robles only for it to clip off the crossbar.

Wright-Phillips, who mostly had a quiet game, had an opportunity in the 75th minute, as he brought in the ball with his back towards goal. With Kofi Opare marking him closely, BWP was still able to swivel and get a shot away on the half volley, but his shot went right into the grateful hands of Hamid.

Olsen brought on Mattocks and Ulises Segura in place of Rooney and Acosta, likely keeping in mind United’s critical game in three days against the Philadelphia Union. The move nearly paid off in the 81st minute, as Segura’s cross from the left found Mattocks, but the Jamaican’s first-time shot from a great spot went just wide.

Wright-Phillips just missed a chance to add to the scoreline in stoppage time, failing to guide a cross from substitute Andreas Ivan on goal. Rzatkowski had a look moments later, but his effort skipped wide of the far post.

United, with 27 points from 23 games, return to action on Wednesday, when they host the Philadelphia Union at Audi Field.