A scrappy, choppy game between D.C. United and Nashville SC saw the expansion side knock the Black-and-Red off 1-0 in Tennessee tonight. A controversial red card for Russell Canouse just before halftime left United in a bad spot, and Daniel Rios eventually snagged the deciding goal midway through the second half.
Canouse and team captain Steven Birnbaum returned to the lineup for United after both had missed the five previous matches due to injury. With midweek games built into the schedule from here on out, Ben Olsen opted for one more bit of squad rotation, bringing Oniel Fisher in at right back after going with Chris Odoi-Atsem in Saturday’s draw with Toronto FC.
The game took quite a while to get going. Nashville had plenty of possession, but Bill Hamid had little to do as the home side appeared to miss absent Designated Player Hany Mukhtar in their midfield. Notable incidents included an injury substitution for Nashville, and a brief stoppage in play due to the sprinkler system at Nissan Stadium coming on. Dax McCarty’s 34th minute shot right at Hamid represented the first real work for either goalkeeper.
That opened the game up a bit, with the teams trading shots wide in the two minutes that followed. Daniel Rios went even closer in the 43rd minute, forcing Hamid into a strong save to his left from the edge of the box. United cleared the corner out for a throw, but from that throw Nashville picked out former DCU midfielder Dax McCarty, who teed Rios up for a sitter. To United’s relief, Rios couldn’t make clean contact, barely grazing the ball and sending it harmlessly wide from six yards.
Just seconds before halftime, referee Tori Penso — who had booked Canouse for a 37th minute foul — went to her pocket again in controversial circumstances. Canouse appeared to be the victim of a foul from Derrick Jones, and his fall saw him clip Jones’ heels. Penso, however, decided that the fall was a foul by Canouse, and gave the midfielder his second yellow card. United were mystified, but nonetheless down a man.
Olsen maintained his two banks of four by bringing Moses Nyeman in for Gelmin Rivas, and United responded to the one-man deficit by upping their play all over the field. Ola Kamara headed over the bar after good work from Oniel Fisher on the right, and Nyeman sparked a counter that saw Asad force Joe Willis into a smart save in the 59th minute. At the other end, Alistair Johnston stung a 20-yarder that required Hamid to make his best save of the night.
Hamid had to come up big again after a Nashville throw-in gave substitute Randall Leal a chance to pick out Rios at the back post in the 69th minute, but United’s recent woes defending set pieces eventually cost them. On the resulting corner kick, a flick-on from Dave Romney gave Rios an even better look, with the Mexican striker nodding home at the back post from seven yards out.
Olsen threw last weekend’s hero Griffin Yow into the mix, along with Federico Higuain and eventually Erik Sorga, and even had Birnbaum up front as a forward, but ultimately couldn’t find a way to get level against a Nashville side that was more than satisfied to protect a one-goal advantage.
With the loss, United (2W-5D-6L) now sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, and are only just ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes on goal difference at the bottom of the entire MLS standings. They’ll look to get back closer to the playoff picture this Sunday, when they host the New England Revolution at 7:00pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 13
Nashville SC 1 (Rios 70)
D.C. United 0
NSC (4231): Joe Willis; Alistair Johnston, Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney, Taylor Washington; Dax McCarty (Randall Leal 62), Anibal Godoy; Dominique Badji (Alan Winn 21), Derrick Jones, Alex Muyl (Jalil Anibaba 83); Daniel Rios
DCU (442): Bill Hamid; Oniel Fisher (Chris Odoi-Atsem 71), Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum (C), Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel (Griffin Yow 78), Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Yamil Asad (Erik Sorga 83); Gelmin Rivas (Moses Nyeman 46), Ola Kamara (Federico Higuain 71)
NSC - Washington 79
DCU - Canouse 37, Canouse 48+ (sent off)