D.C. United seemed content to escape FC Cincinnati with a scoreless draw, only for Ola Kamara to snag the game’s only goal from the spot eight minutes into stoppage time, securing a 1-0 win. United were down a man after a late, VAR-assisted red card to Moses Nyeman, only for VAR to also grant them the game-winning penalty kick.
The home side’s directness characterized the opening moments, but United had the game’s first serious look. Drew Skundrich and Edison Flores did well to open up the Cincinnati defense, with the Peruvian slipping Brad Smith in behind. Smith, after briefly being grabbed by Alvas Powell, pushed an awkward shot towards the approaching Alec Kann. The ball squirmed loose of the group, falling perfectly for Griffin Yow, but the United homegrown attacker’s shot on an empty net was denied by Tyler Blackett’s goal-saving header on the line.
Bill Hamid had to make a sharp save to his left in the 11th minute as Dom Badji got in behind during the wide-open early exchanges, and then repeated that two more times inside the first half-hour. At the other end, Smith fed Flores into a promising position, but the Designated Player took the ball a bit too wide before flashing a shot across goal and wide in the 17th minute.
Brandon Vázquez slotted a shot past Hamid in the 22nd minute after United failed to close Lucho Acosta down, but Vázquez was correctly called offside. The game slowed for a spell, but the home side nearly struck twice in the final moments of the half. First, Cincy cut through United on the counter before Badji’s angled shot missed breaking the deadlock by about a foot in the 44th minute, while Vázquez fired wide a minute later after Brendan Hines-Ike’s aimless header.
United had to remove Julian Gressel at halftime after he appeared to injure his hip in a collision late in the first half, with Hernán bringing Adrien Perez in and switching to a 4231 formation. DCU had a couple of rocky moments thanks to avoidable turnovers, but started to grow into the game, worrying Cincinnati with several corner kicks. At the other end, Yuya Kubo fizzed a shot through traffic barely wide in the 65th minute after United could only half-clear a service from deep.
Ola Kamara, in as a substitute, narrowly missed on a near-post header after good work from Yow and Andy Najar in the 66th minute, while Blackett nodded an Acosta corner wide at the back post six minutes later.
With the game hanging in the balance, a clash between Moses Nyeman and Acosta in the 78th minute initially was given as a yellow card, but after a long VAR check from referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere, the youngster was given a straight red card.
Cincinnati threw numbers forward in pursuit of what would be just their second-ever win at TQL Stadium, while United dropped deep and brought Donovan Pines in for Najar to try to fend the pressure off. However, it was United — with VAR’s help — getting the victory. Sofiane Djeffal’s free kick late in stoppage time found Steven Birnbaum, and the captain’s header struck Geoff Cameron’s extended arm. Eight minutes into stoppage time, Kamara sent Alec Kann the wrong way from the spot, giving United a stunning win and condemning Cincinnati to their 14th straight loss.
United will look to start the season with a third straight win — something they’ve never done without the aid of the 90s-era MLS shootout — as they host the Chicago Fire next Saturday night on Buzzard Point. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 2
FC Cincinnati 0
D.C. United 1 (Kamara 98+pen)
Cincinnati (3412): Alec Kann; Nick Hagglund (Ian Murphy 75), Geoff Cameron, Tyler Blackett; Alvas Powell (Harrison Robledo 75), Yuya Kubo, Júnior Moreno, Ray Gaddis (Álvaro Barreal 87); Luciano Acosta (C); Dom Badji (Brenner 62), Brandon Vázquez
DCU (3421): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar (Donovan Pines 81), Brendan Hines-Ike, Steven Birnbaum (C); Julian Gressel (Adrien Perez 46), Moses Nyeman, Drew Skundrich (Sofiane Djeffal 59), Brad Smith; Edison Flores, Griffin Yow (Chris Odoi-Atsem 75); Michael Estrada (Ola Kamara 60)
Cincinnati - Blackett 93+
DCU - Nyeman 80 (red), B. Smith 91+