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Recap: D.C. United put up a solid performance despite a frustrating 0-1 loss to LAFC

A flurry of yellow cards spelled disaster for D.C. United

MLS: D.C. United at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United and LAFC have not met since 2019, when the Black-and-Gold drubbed D.C. 4-0 at Audi Field. Then star player Wayne Rooney was booked with red.

LAFC took all three points again, winning 1-0. But the final score doesn’t tell the whole story of the match.

With the hosts on a solid six-match winning streak, the Black-and-Red faced a tall task at Banc of California Stadium. D.C. United put up a solid first half, holding off LAFC and creating substantial chances throughout. Unfortunately for the Black-and-Red, a flurry of yellow cards ended up spelling disaster. A red card in the 60’ saw captain Steve Birnbaum forced to leave the match, and D.C. was compelled to finish the second half with ten men.

It looked like the Black-and-Gold would get their start early with a strong run from Brian Rodríguez inside the first minute of the match. D.C.’s backline managed to shut him down, but not before he made his way well into the box. Rodríguez’s run snapped the Black-and-Red back to attention, and they focused on countering quickly.

Taxi Fountas tried for an early goal in the 4’, seeking to capitalize on a corner by Martín Rodríguez. His attempt didn’t find the back of the net but continued to stoke the fire under D.C. United’s attack. Moments later, in the 6’, Fountas found a well-positioned Jackson Hopkins with a tidy cross. The young player took a touch and made an on-target shot that Maxime Crépeau just barely stopped.

The Black-and-Red put up an incredible defensive performance throughout the first half and, honestly, the whole match. Tony Alfaro had a good showing, with a stunning tackle early in the game to deny José Cifuentes what would have been a breakaway run toward David Ochoa. Andy Najar made critical defensive plays as well, drawing a foul from Diego Palacios in the 20’.

D.C. United certainly wasn’t without tenacity on the attack. A cross from Martín Rodríguez found captain Steve Birnbaum in the box in the 26’. With a signature header, Birnbaum made one of the Black-and-Red’s most convincing attempts in the first half. Victor Pálsson followed up with an attempted header of his own

As the first half wore on, officiating started to get the better of D.C. United. A flurry of yellow cards starting with Jackson Hopkins in the 28’ for a handball offense would spell disaster for the Black-and-Red.

Sofian Djeffal was booked with yellow in the 43’. Ravel Morrison claimed his own card in the 44’ after a particularly tough tackle of one of LAFC’s leading goal-scorers, Cristian Arango.

D.C. United had managed to hold LAFC to a scoreless draw at the half, putting up a solid defense and creating several convincing opportunities. It wasn’t a time to coast or be overly optimistic, though; in their previous match, LAFC scored five (yes FIVE) goals in the second half to best Charlotte FC 5-0.

The Black-and-Red came out of the locker room focused, but the cards they were dealt would ultimately decide the match. Two consecutive yellows for Birnbaum in the 50’ and 60’ would see him ejected from the game.

Even David Ochoa wasn’t exempt. He was booked in the 59’. Wayne Rooney said, “My goalkeeper got a yellow card for time wasting, no warning. And their goalkeeper is wasting time, gets two warnings, doesn’t get a yellow card. It was very strange. Very strange indeed.”

D.C. United played on with ten men. It was only a matter of time before LAFC exploited an opening to make a run.

Carlos Vela began LAFC’s counter and found Arango despite Mahala Opoku being open on the left side. Opoku continued his run down the left wing, leaving Arango to draw Ochoa out of goal. With a quick cross, Arango found Opoku, who took advantage of the empty net in short order. LAFC was up 1-0 by the 67’.

LAFC wasn’t able to find the back of the net again, a positive point on an otherwise frustrating night.

Rooney said, “It’s a shame that we couldn’t get anything out of the game, but as I’ve said, there’s a lot of positives to take... I don’t like losing. It’s not great when you lose, but there’s a lot of positives.”

D.C. United returns to Audi Field to face Philadelphia Union on Saturday, August 20, at 7:30 pm ET.

Three Takeaways

  • David Ochoa makes his Black-and-Red Debut. David Ochoa made a solid debut for D.C. United. A first match in Black-and-Red against LAFC was no small ask from Ochoa.
  • D.C. is creating a solid defense. The 0-1 loss (contributed to by lopsided officiating) wasn’t nearly as devastating as it could have been. LAFC was only able to put back a single goal against a 10-man D.C. United - a testament to the Black-and-Red’s solid defense.
  • The Black-and-Red are making progress. Unfortunately, the final results are deceptive. D.C. United is making marked progress under Wayne Rooney’s watchful eye, shoring up the defense and becoming braver on the ball.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season - Game 25

LAFC: 1 Opoku 67’


LAFC: (4-3-3) Maxime Crépeau, Jesús Murillo, Eddie Segura (Mamadou Fall 84’), Diego Palacios, Franco Escobar, Illie Sánchez, José Cifuentes (Ryan Hollingshead 84’), Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Arango, Brian Rodríguez (Kwadwo Mahala Opoku 62’), Carlos Vela (Latif Blessing 73’)

D.C. United: (4-2-3-1) David Ochoa, Tony Alfaro, Steve Birnbaum, Sami Guediri (Donovan Pines 82’), Andy Najar (Chris Odoi-Atsem 82’), Victor Pálsson, Ravel Morrison (Ola Kamara 82’), Jackson Hopkins (Chris Durkin 63’), Martín Rodríguez (Miguel Berry 72’), Sofiane Djeffal, Taxi Fountas

Misconduct Summary

LAFC: Escobar 89’

D.C. United: Hopkins 28’, Djeffal 43’, Morrison 44’, Birnbaum (50’ and 60’, yellow card accumulation resulting in a red card), Ochoa 59’,