D.C. United were in an unforgiving mood at Audi Field tonight, controlling Minnesota United throughout en route to a 3-1 win. United got a 17th goal on the year from Ola Kamara before strikes from Julian Gressel and Junior Moreno provided the winning margin. The victory was D.C.’s fourth straight at Audi Field, where they’re now 10W-0D-3L on the year.
With just two changes to the side that defeated FC Cincinnati 4-2 on the weekend, United offered up their familiar confident start against a Minnesota side playing without star playmaker Emanuel Reynoso. Still, with the Loons setting up in a 541, it took a bit before a true chance for the Black-and-Red, with Paul Arriola gliding past Bakaye Dibassy to set Yordy Reyna up for a 14-yard shot that flew over the bar.
United kept working the ball around looking for opportunities, and eventually Andy Najar won a penalty kick in the 21st minute. With possession being swung from the middle out to the right, Najar dipped the shoulder to get past Chase Gasper and into the box, where the defender bundled into him. Referee Ramy Touchan had no choice but to point to the spot, and Ola Kamara successfully converted his eighth penalty of the year to make it 1-0.
The Black-and-Red were bossing the game, but were caught cold by a 40th minute Loons equalizer. There wasn’t much initial danger as Franco Fragapane stood over free kick a ways away from goal, but his service was dead on, and one-time DCU transfer target Bakaye Dibassy rose up above two United markers to nod the ball expertly into the bottom corner.
United wasted no time regaining the lead, though, with Julian Gressel putting them back ahead in the 45th minute. All year, Gressel has served up assists for Kamara, but this time it was the other way around: Kamara escaped a one-on-two along the right touchline before crossing low for Gressel, who had time to take a touch before firing low past Miller.
Kamara got another penalty kick early in the second half, after Russell Canouse was clearly fouled by Dibassy. United had scored on all nine penalty kicks this season — with Kamara converting eight — but this time, Miller wasn’t fooled by Kamara’s normal approach, saving with ease down to his right. The Loons nearly compounded United’s pain in the moment, surging up the field on the counter only for Hamid to do very well to tip Fragapane’s shot over the bar.
Donovan Pines nearly put himself up for Goal of the Year in the 72nd minute as Gressel’s long free kick was kept alive in the box. Pines went for a bicycle kick, but from nine yards sent his effort just wide of Miller’s right post. Seconds later, United sliced through the Loons again, but Gressel could only steer Arriola’s cutback wide from ten yards.
United went even closer in the 75th minute, with Arriola calmly tucking away substitute Edison Flores’ through ball only to be denied by a tight offside call.
Minnesota brought Juan Agudelo in and shifted into a 424, but United made them pay in the 85th minute. Najar won a strong tackle in the DCU half, with the ball skipping forward to Flores in tons of space on the right flank. Flores drove forward before spotting that no one had tracked his fellow substitute Junior Moreno at the top of the box, and the Venezuelan international drove home his first-ever goal for the Black-and-Red.
Flores had a chance to get on the scoresheet in stoppage time after Nigel Robertha used a stepover to freeze Minnesota’s scrambling defense, only for the Designated Player to send the ball into the stands.
The victory sees United (12W-4D-11L, 40 points) maintain their grip on a playoff spot, though their actual place in the standings will hinge on a wide range of results throughout the tightly-packed Eastern Conference standings on a busy night in MLS. United completes another sprint through three games in eight days on Saturday, as they head to Florida to take on Orlando City in a 7:30pm kickoff.
MLS Regular Season - Game 27
D.C. United 3 (Kamara 23pen, Gressel 45, Moreno 85)
Minnesota United 1 (Dibassy 40)
DCU (3412): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum (C), Donovan Pines; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Felipe Martins (Junior Moreno 64), Kevin Paredes (Joseph Mora 89); Paul Arriola (Moses Nyeman 88); Ola Kamara (Nigel Robertha 79), Yordy Reyna (Edison Flores 64)
MNUFC (541): Tyler Miller; Romain Métanire, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman (Juan Agudelo 81), Bakaye Dibassy, Chase Gasper; Ethan Finlay (Niko Hansen 60), Wil Trapp, Jacori Hayes (Joseph Rosales 60), Franco Fragapane (Adrien Hunou 60); Robin Lod (Fanendo Adi 60)
DCU - Canouse 60, Arriola 66
MNUFC - Hayes 18, Trapp 43, Kallman 79, Gasper 88