A night that began promisingly ended in defeat for D.C. United, who were unable to hang onto a lead in a 2-1 U.S. Open Cup loss to NYCFC. Wayne Rooney put United ahead in the 32nd minute, but goals from Alexandru Mitrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi before halftime gave New York City FC a lead they would rarely look like relinquishing.
United nearly got off to an ideal start. Inside the first minute of the game, a simple flick-on from Ulises Segura gave Luciano Acosta the ball in a promising spot, and his backheel completely unlocked the NYCFC defense. Wayne Rooney took a touch, spun on his man, and fired a low left-footed shot that had Brad Stuver beat. Unfortunately for United, it slapped off the front of the post before bouncing away.
The game was off to a roaring start, with a promising United attack turning into a 6th minute NYCFC counter. The Pigeons had four men running at Frederic Brillant and Steven Birnbaum, but were bailed out by Alexandru Mitrita’s choice to just go to goal himself. Still, the Romanian forced Chris Seitz to produce a top save in the process.
United couldn’t wrangle the loose ball, and Mitrita had another go from 25 yards. Seitz tipped this one over the bar, and NYCFC thought they had the lead from the resulting corner. Maxi Moralez curled the ball towards the near post, where Maxime Chanot rose up first to nod the ball down in the goalmouth. Heber happened to be running right onto it, and bundle the ball over the line. The Pigeons celebrated, but after a check with his assistant referee, center official Fotis Bazakos called the goal back for a handball.
The game settled down a bit from there, as both teams exchanged bouts of possession. The visitors probably should have done better with a 26th minute opportunity that fell to Anton Tinnerholm, while United responded with a cross from Joseph Mora that Rooney headed just inches wide a minute later.
United seemed to possibly be fading out of the game a bit, but their next attack put them into the lead. Segura found himself in space at midfield, and used the time NYCFC granted him deliver an inch-perfect cross-field ball to Rooney. United’s captain didn’t break stride, bringing the ball down with his chest before finishing with ease past Stuver in the 32nd minute.
City produced a flurry of looks in response. Chanot headed wide as Seitz came for a free kick but couldn’t get a punch to it, and then a Mitrita shot knuckled on United’s netminder. Seitz made the save, but the ball nicked off the side of his hand, falling into the six-yard box. Brillant, fortunately, was on hand to prevent his former team from scoring a tap-in.
D.C. didn’t heed the danger, and in the 38th minute NYCFC got their equalizer. The play was similar to United’s goal: Keaton Parks was given time to pick his head up in the midfield, and went over the top for Mitrita, whose run from the left beat the offside trap cleanly. In alone, Mitrita’s shot had just enough on it to get under Seitz and roll into the back of the net.
NYCFC weren’t done, and took a 41st minute lead. Lucas Rodriguez was sent tumbling by a strong challenge by Parks, with the ball rolling to Sebastian Ibeagha. Ibeagha saw that United were in an attacking posture and pushed the ball upfield immediately, finding Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in space, with only Birnbaum between him and the goal. Tajouri-Shradi moved upfield before cutting in onto his left foot before rifling a low shot past Seitz.
The Black-and-Red were reeling, but came out and had a good chance early in the second half. Segura won the ball from Mitrita, finding Acosta in the process. Acosta one-timed a ball in behind for Rooney, whose angled run took him away from NYCFC’s chasing defense. From the right side of the box, Rooney opted for power, but Stuver fought the ball off.
NYCFC were managing the game intelligently, but United started to push the tempo a bit after the midway point of the second half. Acosta went on a storming run from midfield, somehow evading 4 defenders in a tight space before dinking a pass to Rodriguez. From an angle, Rodriguez tried to fire past Stuver, but the goalkeeper was able to make the stop.
United were knocking on the door, but the visitors weren’t just sitting deep. Substitute Valentin Castellanos ended a counter by firing a strike over Seitz and off the bar. The rebound then hit Seitz in the back before bouncing away from danger in the 78th minute.
Unfortunately for the Black-and-Red, they never went closer than a 90th minute look for Segura, who was flagged offside anyway, while at the other end Tajouri-Shradi nearly gave the visitors a third deep into stoppage time only for Seitz to make a save.
The loss ends United’s pursuit of a fourth Open Cup title. United will return to action in MLS next Wednesday night, as they host Orlando City on June 26. Highlights will be added when they are made available.
U.S. Open Cup - Round of 16
D.C. United 1 (Rooney 32)
New York City FC 2 (Mitrita 38, Tajouri-Shradi 41)
DCU (4231): Chris Seitz; Leonardo Jara (Jalen Robinson 46), Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin, Antonio Bustamante (Russell Canouse 70); Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez (Griffin Yow 87); Wayne Rooney (C)
NYC (343): Brad Stuver; Sebastian Ibeagha, Alexander Ring (C), Maxime Chanot; Anton Tinnerholm, Keaton Parks, Maxi Moralez (Justin Haak 93+), Ben Sweat; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Heber (Valentin Castellanos 49), Alexandru Mitrita (Juan Pablo Torres 90)
DCU - Robinson 55, Acosta 69, Rodriguez 76
NYC - None