D.C. United’s troubled season continued tonight, as they lost the first round of the Atlantic Cup 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls. Wayne Rooney received a first half red card, and though United got level on the scoreboard through Ola Kamara and numerically after Amro Tarek was sent off as well, the Red Bulls got a hotly disputed winner from Daniel Royer.
The Red Bulls kicked off with confidence, quickly forcing United into a back seat role. In the 6th minute, the Red Bulls, playing a midfield diamond as opposed to their usual 4231, proved successful. After two mediocre clearances in the D.C. penalty area, Felipe gained possession close to the goal and mistakenly handed the ball over to Kaku Gamarra, who fired it into the net for the early 1-0 lead.
Under immense pressure from the Red Bulls, United’s night worsened in the 24th minute after a foul by Wayne Rooney on Cristian Casseres Jr. before a corner kick was served in. Referee Ismail Elfath ended up consulting VAR, and came back onto the field to show the United captain a red card.
Rooney’s red card appeared to act as a wake up call for the home side, who despite the disadvantage had most of the threatening moves forward for the remainder of the half. Paul Arriola managed United’s first truly threatening opportunity of the first 45 by breaking into the box and firing the ball into Luis Robles’s shoulder.
Seconds before the halftime whistle, Amro Tarek hauled Arriola down as the two chased a ball in the Red Bulls half. Tarek, who had been booked ten minutes earlier, was given his second yellow by Elfath, reducing both teams to ten.
United returned to the pitch with a newfound confidence, and their improved play got its reward. In the 55th minute, Ola Kamara gained possession to the left of the New York box. With no one closing him, Kamara offered up a spectacular curling effort, picking out the far corner of the net and setting Audi Field alight.
The Black-and-Red’s momentum was quickly halted, though, by the game’s most disputed call. Lucas Rodriguez pursued Michael Murillo into the box, and though contact was not obvious, the Panamanian went down. Elfath quickly called a penalty, infuriating United fans and players, but even after a call from VAR, Elfath was unwilling to change his mind.
Despite a strong effort from Hamid, Daniel Royer’s attempt from the penalty spot proved too strong, giving the visitors the lead again.
United threw numbers forward, desperately chasing an equalizer. Leonardo Jara showed vision to send Luciano Acosta in alone on Robles. Acosta stayed up under pressure from Tim Parker, but Robles did just enough to get his hands on the ball before United’s number 10 could round him.
Acosta and Jara reversed roles a few minutes later, but Jara’s goal-bound shot was blocked by a lunging Parker as the Red Bulls were being put under intense pressure.
Elfath awarded 8 minutes of stoppage time, which was extended even further after a clash of heads between Jara and Long. United first survived a miss from Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 94th minute, before seeming destined to get a last-gasp equalizer. Quincy Amarikwa sent Rodriguez in behind the New York defense, but Robles got a leg on his low shot, which then floated just barely over the crossbar, breaking United’s hearts.
It doesn’t get easier for United, who are now in 5th place on a 10W-9D-9L record. They head up I-95 for a Saturday game against the Philadelphia Union, starting a crucial stretch of three straight road games.
MLS Regular Season (Game 28)
D.C. United 1 (Kamara 54)
New York Red Bulls 2 (Kaku 6, Royer 59pen)
DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Jalen Robinson (Leonardo Jara 38), Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum, Joseph Mora (Luciano Acosta 72); Felipe, Junior Moreno; Paul Arriola, Wayne Rooney (C), Lucas Rodriguez; Ola Kamara (Quincy Amarikwa 69)
NYRB (4312): Luis Robles (C); Michael Murillo, Aaron Long, Amro Tarek, Rece Buckmaster; Cristian Casseres Jr., Sean Davis, Marc Rzatkowski; Kaku (Bradley Wright-Phillips 69); Tom Barlow (Tim Parker 46), Daniel Royer (Kemar Lawrence 71)
DCU - Rooney 24 (red), Felipe 34, Amarikwa 73
NYRB - Tarek 38, Tarek 48+ (sent off)