D.C. United battled their way past their eternal rivals tonight, beating the New York Red Bulls 1-0 in a physical, gritty match at Audi Field. Ola Kamara notched the winner with his team-leading seventh goal of the season on an assist from Julian Gressel, and a standout team defensive effort helped United hold the Red Bulls to just one shot on goal.
Hernán Losada, facing his third game in eight days and missing nine players due to injury, the Gold Cup, or loans to Loudoun United, made three changes to the team that drew 2-2 at Chicago on Wednesday. Felipe Martins, Drew Skundrich, and Kevin Paredes came into the team, while the Black-and-Red set up in a 3421 after using a 352 mid-week.
United, as has become customary under Losada, started fast, with Joseph Mora beating Kyle Duncan up the wing and getting to the endline to cross low. That service was just out of reach for Kamara, but also right where Kevin Paredes needed it, only for the young homegrown star to side-foot his shot right at Carlos Coronel, who did enough to keep it from sneaking over the line in the 3rd minute.
The next 20 minutes went by with few incidents of note, with both sides effectively pressing the others into little coherent play. However, in the 27th minute, Julian Gressel would change that almost single-handedly. United set up well, and a sloppy Red Bulls pass towards Amro Tarek invited Gressel to sprint forward and challenge it. Tarek could only have his attempt to clear blocked, and Gressel ran onto the loose ball to cross for Kamara, who beat Tom Edwards to the spot and steered the ball first-time past Coronel.
United probably should have made it 2-0 in the 40th minute, with Gressel again in the thick of it. This time, after Paredes found him on the right, Gressel wasn’t closed down, and used the time to shape a cross right into Skundrich’s path, but the midfielder’s diving header was kicked away by Coronel.
While United had less than 40% of the possession in the first half, they had dominated to such an extent that Bill Hamid hadn’t faced a single shot.
Hamid finally did have to make a save, and it was top-drawer stuff in the 54th minute as he reached out to his left to tip Cristian Cásseres Jr.’s falling effort wide after the ball pinged around to the Red Bulls midfielder at the top of the box.
United, who had brought Kamara out at halftime — possibly relating to a hard hit he took when a clearance struck him late in the half — saw his replacement Nigel Robertha require a substitution in the 63rd minute after landing badly after going for a header. That characterized the whole game, which saw numerous stoppages for injuries in what proved to be a bruising encounter.
The fouls and yellow cards were piling up, but United’s best looks ended up going awry as the ball bobbled around the box, while the Red Bulls had to subsist on rare attacking set pieces. A recycled 89th minute corner was the only one they turned into a dangerous chance, with Fábio’s shot on the turn barely missing wide.
United were able to see the game out from there though, and in fact nearly made it 2-0 on an audacious Julian Gressel shot from all of 70 yards that beat Coronel, but bounced just inches wide deep in stoppage time.
The win moves United (6W-2D-7L) up to 20 points, allowing them to leapfrog the Red Bulls and move into 8th place in the Eastern Conference. They return to action next Saturday, July 31, as they travel to face FC Cincinnati at 7:30pm Eastern.
MLS Regular Season - Game 15
D.C. United 1 (Kamara 27)
New York Red Bulls 0
DCU (3421): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Frédéric Brillant (C), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Felipe Martins (Moses Nyeman 74), Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora (Steven Birnbaum 91+); Drew Skundrich, Kevin Paredes (Yamil Asad 63); Ola Kamara (Nigel Robertha 46, Yordy Reyna 63)
NYRB (4312): Carlos Coronel; Kyle Duncan, Tom Edwards (Omir Fernandez 82), Amro Tarek, John Tolkin; Cristian Cásseres Jr., Sean Davis (C), Dru Yearwood (Frankie Amaya 64); Caden Clark (Wikelman Carmona 71); Fábio, Patryk Klimala
DCU - Alfaro 12, Brillant 87, Hamid 97+
NYRB - Fábio 46, Klimala 70, Edwards 80, Cásseres Jr. 83