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D.C. United falls 2-1 on late NYCFC sucker punch

Nigel Robertha’s first MLS goal saw United lead most of the way, but stoppage-time drama saw them fall on the road

MLS: D.C. United at New York City FC Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United seemed set to extend an unbeaten streak to four games, only for NYCFC to score two dramatic late goals, handing the Black-and-Red a 2-1 loss. Nigel Robertha’s first MLS goal looked to give United at least some share of the points, only for Keaton Parks and Thiago Andrade to strike in the final five minutes to give New York City the win.

Facing a third game in eight days, United boss Hernán Losada elected to make five changes to the team that couldn’t quite break down Montreal in a mid-week draw. Nigel Robertha made his first start with the Black-and-Red up front, while Yamil Asad, Frédéric Brillant, and Joseph Mora all started for the first time in weeks.

United had a narrow escape in the 9th minute, as Bill Hamid couldn’t quite get to a loose ball that caromed awkwardly into Valentín Castellanos’ path. However, after Hamid and Brendan Hines-Ike did enough to prevent a goal, the Black-and-Red emphatically took the lead. Moses Nyeman — the fifth change to the lineup — delivered a glorious crossfield ball to pick Robertha’s run out. From there, Robertha surged past Maxime Chanot before unleashing a powerful shot from nine yards out to beat Sean Johnson for his first-ever MLS goal.

NYCFC were still looking dangerous though, frequently causing some defensive scrambles in United’s box. Hamid came up with a strong 26th minute save, closing the angle after a deflection guided the ball right to Castellanos while United’s defense appealed for an offside flag.

United were forced into an early sub, with Nyeman coming off with an apparent thigh issue, while the teams traded modest looks at both ends. Robertha shot wide in the 39th minute, while a dangerous NYCFC free kick mercifully drifted wide without being touched in at the back post two minutes later.

The second half continued with half-chances, though NYCFC slowly started to create more of them than United. Substitute Thiago Andrade wasted a 58th minute free header on a corner, nodding down to no one in blue when going to goal was a clear option, while the youngster danced inside four minutes later to take a shot that forced Hamid into a save.

However, United finally had a counter that appeared sure to give them a second goal. Julian Gressel sized up a cross into the box only to cut the ball back to the top of the box. With NYCFC retreating, Russell Canouse had time to size up a shot through the crowd, but unfortunately his 70th minute effort went straight at Johnson.

Hamid had to make two saves in the 80th and 83rd minutes, denying Thiago and another substitute, Talles Magno, as the NYCFC control over proceedings tightened.

Finally, United’s resistance was broken in the 84th minute. Maxi Moralez had been quiet, but his near-post corner kick was right on the money for another sub, Keaton Parks, who used a pick to escape Gressel and glance the ball across goal and just inside the back post. The goal was NYCFC’s league-leading ninth set piece goal on the year, and broke a 399-minute shutout streak for the Black-and-Red extending back to May 23’s 1-0 loss to Philadelphia.

NYCFC pushed for a win, but United countered in the 89th minute, suddenly creating a 3v2. Kevin Paredes gave Paul Arriola a bit of a difficult pass to deal with, but Arriola saw his curling shot miss by just inches.

Deep into stoppage time, a United corner fell invitingly to Arriola, who stabbed a shot goalward only for it to hit Johnson in the ribs. Johnson picked up the loose ball and tossed it upfield for Thiago Andrade, who was one-on-one with Donovan Pines in tons of space. The young Brazilian touched the ball past Pines and charged away into the box, cutting inside before tucking a heartbreaking winner past Hamid in the 95th minute.

The loss snaps a three-game unbeaten run for United (4W-1D-6L), and as a result they fall to 8th place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll look to start a new streak of positive results next Saturday, July 3, as they host a struggling Toronto FC side at Audi Field in what will be a rare 5:30pm kickoff.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season - Game 11
New York City FC 1 (Parks 84, Thiago 95+)
D.C. United 1 (Robertha 9)

NYCFC (4231): Sean Johnson (C); Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, James Sands, Gudmundur Thórarinsson; Nicolas Acevedo, Alfredo Morales (Keaton Parks 46); Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Santiago Rodríguez 73), Maxi Moralez, Jesús Medina (Thiago Andrade 37); Valentín Castellanos (Talles Magno 73)

DCU (352): Bill Hamid; Brendan Hines-Ike (Andy Najar 46), Frédéric Brillant (Tony Alfaro 69), Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Moses Nyeman (Felipe Martins 35), Russell Canouse, Yamil Asad (Adrien Perez 58), Joseph Mora (Kevin Paredes 58); Paul Arriola (C), Nigel Robertha

NYCFC - None
DCU - Mora 52, Robertha 70, Najar 78