A respectable start and positive finish were not enough for D.C. United, who fell to a 2-1 home loss to the New England Revolution at an empty, and rain-soaked, Audi Field tonight. Poor defensive work on corners gave the Revolution two first-half goals from Gustavo Bou and Teal Bunbury, and though United pulled one back thanks to an Ola Kamara penalty kick. A late red card to Scott Caldwell opened the door for a dramatic comeback, but the Black-and-Red couldn’t get the job done.
Coming off of a game last Friday, and facing another five games in the next 18 days (including one this Saturday in Philadelphia), Ben Olsen opted to bring three fresh starters into a slightly tweaked 352. Felipe Martins returned from suspension, while Joseph Mora and Edison Flores were given starts; Frederic Brillant, Yamil Asad, and Ulises Segura made way.
Despite New England kicking off, United had a strong scoring chance within 20 seconds, as Kamara teed homegrown attacker Kevin Paredes up for a shot that the teenager fired over the bar. United went even closer in the 4th minute, with Andrew Farrell’s mistake handing Kamara a run in at goal. Kamara attempted a shoulder fake on Matt Turner, but the New England goalkeeper wasn’t fooled, shutting down the danger before Kamara could open up a shooting angle.
An injury to Russell Canouse in the 16th minute seemed to help the visitors find their feet, though, and Bou gave them a 26th minute breakthrough. First, the Argentine forced Bill Hamid into an excellent low save from distance. On the corner, United won the initial service, but Edison Flores opted to dink the ball up over Bou rather than make sure the danger was fully cleared. The flick wasn’t high enough, allowing Bou to head the ball down to himself before picking out the bottom corner from 20 yards.
The goal broke a 335 minute scoreless run for New England, whose last goal was also against United during the MLS is Back Tournament.
In the 31st minute, referee Guido Gonzales Jr. drew a halt to the game due to lightning in the area. United needed to use the resulting 46 minute delay to find the intensity and speed of thought they opened the game with, but instead found themselves down 2-0 in the 37th minute, again conceding in the aftermath of a corner that wasn’t cleared.
This time, Felipe had his clearance attempt blocked by Teal Bunbury, with the ball pinging across the top of the six-yard box. Kelyn Rowe fired from close range, with Hamid making a wonderful kick-save. The resulting corner, however, picked Bunbury out, and the veteran attacker thumped a free header home.
United renewed their aggression to start the second half, but still struggled to create genuine chances. They got further bad news in the 55th minute, when Flores went down in pain after a clash of heads with Alexander Büttner. After being looked at by trainers, the Designated Player was replaced by Ulises Segura.
Finally, after a night of bad luck and bad plays, United had something go their way. Steven Birnbaum’s attempt to head a cross back into the mixer struck Büttner in the hand, and after initially only giving a corner kick, Gonzales eventually pointed to the spot after consulting VAR. Kamara stepped up to take the spot kick, sending Turner the wrong way and putting United on the board in the 72nd minute.
VAR came up again in the minutes that followed. A tough clash over a 50/50 ball between Felipe and substitute Scott Caldwell eventually saw Gonzales get a call from the booth, and after a short check, the referee gave Caldwell a straight red card for exposing his studs in the challenge.
Facing a short-handed and tiring foe, United took control, pinning the Revs back for long spells. A cross from Gressel in the 86th minute found Penilla at the back post, but the youngster’s chest trap escaped him at the crucial moment.
With 10 minutes of stoppage time to work with, another dangerous cross from Gressel picked out Kamara, whose looping header was destined to go in only for a spectacular diving save from Turner to keep it out.
United threw the kitchen sink at New England in stoppage time, often leaving Donovan Pines all by himself at the back, but ultimately their preference for long balls saw the Revs able to hold D.C. off. Hamid even had to make a 99th minute save on Tajon Buchanan as New England did well to kill the game off after spending so much time under late pressure.
Now at 1W-3D-3L on the season, United will have little time to sort themselves out, as they face a road game against the Philadelphia Union this Saturday, with kickoff at 7:30pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 7
D.C. United 1 (Kamara 72pen)
New England Revolution 2 (Bou 26, Bunbury 37)
DCU (352): Bill Hamid; Russell Canouse (Frederic Brillant 19, Federico Higuain 90), Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum (C); Julian Gressel, Felipe Martins, Junior Moreno, Kevin Paredes, Joseph Mora (Yamil Asad 59); Edison Flores (Ulises Segura 58), Ola Kamara
Revs (4231): Matt Turner; Brandon Bye, Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, Alexander Büttner (DeJuan Jones 92+); Matt Polster, Kelyn Rowe (Scott Caldwell 68); Teal Bunbury, Cristian Penilla (Tajon Buchanan 92+), Gustavo Bou (C) (Diego Fagundez 86); Adam Buksa
DCU - Birnbaum 66, Felipe 100+
Revs - Caldwell 83 (red), Buksa 95+