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D.C. United lets 3 leads slip away in 3-3 draw with New York Red Bulls

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United kept getting the lead, and BWP kept pulling RBNY back level

D.C. United took three different leads on Sunday afternoon against the New York Red Bulls, but had to settle for a point in a 3-3 tie as a Bradley Wright-Phillips hat trick did United in. Paul Arriola, Wayne Rooney, and Luciano Acosta gave United the leads, one in the first half, twice in the second half.

The Red Bulls had an answer each time though, and each time it was the Red Bulls’ star striker who made United pay. Following the Montreal Impact’s surprise win over the Philadelphia Union, United lost ground in the playoff race with the result.

After Wednesday’s second half comeback win Minnesota United, head coach Ben Olsen opted for three changes to the starting lineup. Jalen Robinson, Frederic Brillant, and Junior Moreno came into the team, replacing Oniel Fisher, Kofi Opare, and Chris Durkin. In addition, Yamil Asad made the bench for the first time since picking up an ankle injury in the last game against the Red Bulls in August.

United also utilized a three-man defense for the first time this season, hoping to change fortunes against their rivals. United had won just once in their previous 13 games against the Red Bulls.

The formation change seemed to catch the Red Bulls off guard, as the Black-and-Red set the tempo for the game early on. That didn’t result in a clear goal scoring chance, though, and New York started to figure out United’s new look. In the 13th minute, Kemar Lawrence had a dangerous cross aimed towards the middle for Wright-Phillips, but a sliding intervention from Brillant prevented the striker from getting to the ball.

In the 23rd minute, Brillant blocked a shot from Sean Davis, and the ball popped out of the box for New York’s Kaku. The Argentine lined up a one-timer, promptly sending a shot well wide, which ended up as a throw-in for the Black-and-Red.

Acosta dispossessed Tim Parker in the 25th minute at midfield, and that turnover became the opener. Acosta worked his way towards the middle of the field, and then picked out Arriola’s run to his right with a perfectly-weighted pass. Acosta struck first time for his 5th goal of the campaign.

Lawrence had two chances in the 30th minute, as a corner came out to the Jamaican defender. His first effort was blocked by Arriola, and then the second shot was well over the goal. Two minutes later, Hamid had to make his first big save of the game, keeping out Marc Rzatkowski’s shot from close range.

Rooney and Rzatkowski then exchanged shots on the volley at the far post, but neither could find a goal. Rooney had his attempt saved by Luis Robles, while Rzatkowski couldn’t keep his shot on target.

United weren’t able to make it to halftime with the lead though, as a mistake from Hamid led to New York’s first equalizer in the 41st minute. Hamid seemed to misjudge a header from Parker, and the ball popped off the keeper’s knee. Wright-Phillips had to turn around, but was able to get away a shot from a bicycle attempt, and Hamid and Steven Birnbaum failed to keep the ball out.

Ulises Segura and Acosta had chances within the first five minutes of the second half before Daniel Royer forced Hamid into a diving save in the 53rd minute. The winger was given too much space outside of United’s box and took advantage, sending a low shot towards the far post only for Hamid to palm the shot wide.

United’s star man then made his presence known in the 65th minute, giving the hosts their second lead of the game. Fisher, who had come in at halftime for Robinson as United moved back into their normal back four, got the ball out wide right. The Jamaican sent a cross into the box, and Rooney, cutting in front of Parker, spectacularly glanced the ball past Robles to the far post for the 2-1 lead.

Rooney then almost put the game away in the 73rd minute, only denied an insurance goal by the woodwork. Fisher once again had a cross into the box, and it once again found the English striker. Rooney had to reach back for the ball, but his shot still beat Robles. Sadly for United, it didn’t beat the crossbar.

The Red Bulls took advantage of that miss three minutes later, when Wright-Phillips scored his second goal of the game. Michael Murillo had the ball out wide on the right, and United lost their mark on the striker. BWP collected a pass at the top of the box, and then fired a shot that bounced off of Fisher, which took the ball past Hamid for another equalizer.

Rooney couldn’t convert a 1-on-1 opportunity against Robles in the 81st minute, but his partner in crime gave United the lead once again in the 87th minute. Acosta played a give-and-go with Asad, who had come on as a substitute in the second half. The Red Bulls defense hesitated, and Acosta took advantage by clipping the ball over Robles.

Frustratingly, that late lead also slipped away as Wright-Phillips wrapped up his hat trick in the 90th minute. A long ball over the top for substitute Alex Muyl was collected near the end line. Wright-Phillips peeled his run away from United’s back line, and Muyl found the striker, who volleyed home at the near post to make the score 3-3.

Five minutes of stoppage time was given, enough time for Birnbaum to barely miss out on the winner from a Rooney corner. Towering up to win a header, Birnbaum headed towards goal, but the ball hit the upright, and the Red Bulls were able to clear away the danger, as the final Atlantic Cup game of the year ended in a thrilling draw.

United, with 35 points from 28 games, have two weeks off until they host the Montreal Impact on September 29.