Just when it looked like D.C. United was going to have to settle for a scrappy scoreless draw, substitute Erik Sorga’s 98th minute game-winner handed them a much-needed 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls. In a game of few chances, the Estonian striker notched his first United goal with nearly the last play of the game, giving United their first win since March.
In the build-up to the game, United got some small good news, but also some significant bad news in terms of player availability. On the positive side, Frederic Brillant returned from injury to captain the side. On the other hand, Bill Hamid (personal reasons) and captain Steven Birnbaum (ankle) remained out, while Felipe Martins was a new absentee due to a torn ACL suffered at training.
Missing six projected starters, Ben Olsen rolled out a 541, and United endured plenty of early pressure. However, the Red Bulls didn’t carve out any good looks until the 27th minute. A giveaway from Yamil Asad handed Kaku possession, and the Argentine found Barlow in the box. On the turn, Barlow fired, only for Chris Seitz to deny him with a strong save. The rebound came back to Barlow, but fortunately for United, he fired off the post.
United replied with their first dangerous attack at all in the 32nd minute. Junior Moreno’s ball in behind found Asad, who drew three defenders before back-heeling to Ola Kamara. From an angle, Kamara let fly, but Ryan Meara tipped his shot over the bar.
Seitz did well to deny Barlow again in the 35th minute, while United showed an ability as the half wore on to carve out spells of possession in the Red Bulls’ half. That said, Mohammed Abu — making his first start with the Black-and-Red — sending a shot over the bar in the 42nd minute was the best chance those moments created.
United showed some menace on the counter early in the second half, with Sean Nealis providing a stunning last-gasp tackle to prevent Kamara, in behind everyone after a pass from Asad, from putting the Black-and-Red on the board in the 52nd minute. At the other end, Brillant provided a crucial clearance four minutes later after Jason Pendant’s cross from the left found its way into the goalmouth.
That flurry of chances gave way to a long spell of both teams cancelling one another out, with both teams turning to their benches to try to lift proceedings. United were bailed out by Donovan Pines in the 73rd minute, with the homegrown defender clearing from in front of an empty net after a shot deflected off Brillant and past Seitz.
Just when the match appeared destined for a draw, United broke through with a last-gasp winner. Following a corner kick that was delayed so referee Nima Saghafi could have a lengthy chat with Olsen on the sideline, Julian Gressel served a corner into the area. Amro Tarek got a head to it, but Erik Sorga tracked it down, took a touch, and unleashed a powerful strike that clipped a Red Bulls defender and flew past Meara.
Saghafi held play up for over a minute for a VAR check, but in the end the goal stood, handing United an absolutely critical 1-0 win. With the result, the Black-and-Red break a nearly eight-year winless run at Red Bull Arena, and also ended a six-game winless slide on the season.
They’ll look to build on the stunning win this coming Sunday, as they host New York City FC.
MLS Regular Season - Game 9
New York Red Bulls 0
D.C. United 1 (Sorga 98+)
NYRB (4231): Ryan Meara; Kyle Duncan, Sean Nealis, Aaron Long (Amro Tarek 67), Jason Pendant; Marc Rzatkowski, Sean Davis (C) (Cristian Casseres Jr. 71); Omir Fernandez (Ben Mines 65), Kaku Gamarra, Daniel Royer (Florian Valot 79); Tom Barlow (Mathias Jorgensen 65)
DCU (541): Chris Seitz; Julian Gressel, Donovan Pines, Frederic Brillant (C), Joseph Mora, Kevin Paredes (Oniel Fisher 72); Ulises Segura (Griffin Yow 91+), Junior Moreno, Mohammed Abu (Moses Nyeman 78), Yamil Asad; Ola Kamara (Erik Sorga 90)
NYRB - Tarek 88
DCU - Brillant 8, Abu 50