A match between D.C. United and New York Red Bulls always has that something extra. Tonight’s 99th meeting between the two teams was no different. Even without a flurry of goals, the scoreless draw still was high drama.
The Black-and-Red headed into tonight’s matchup with a chip on their shoulders. They haven’t beaten the Red Bulls yet this year and it stings. Between a 4-1 drubbing in the first regular season game and a 3-0 loss during the Lamar Hunt Open Cup, D.C. United’s dissatisfaction makes sense - if there is one thing we don’t do well in the District, it’s losing to New Jersey.
A gritty start to the match saw the Black-and-Red more aggressive in possession as they stepped up the tempo to try and get the drop on the Red Bulls early. Before the whistle, manager Wayne Rooney said, “we know we have to tighten up defensively. Be hard to play against, hard to beat, and then hope that our forward players can get chances and take them. We know it’s gonna be a tough game. Red Bulls is always a tough game to get three points.”
With Taxi Fountas starting on the bench due to caution over a groin pull in Wednesday’s game against Charlotte FC, Miguel Berry and Martín Rodríguez started up top along with Jackson Hopkins. While the trio did well creating forward momentum against the Red Bulls, quick turnovers and chippy challenges littered the first half.
What D.C. United lacked in creation, they more than made up for in defensive prowess. Rafael Romo had arguably his best match in Black-and-Red, making sharp, proactive saves to keep a clean sheet. Romo’s distribution also found key players at the right moments, giving them an opportunity to build into the Red Bull’s defensive half.
Lovely ball from @rafaromo1 @Kimarni75 knocking on the door early pic.twitter.com/8F9rMeOYY2— D.C. United (@dcunited) August 7, 2022
Kimarni Smith was one of those key players, falling well into his starting role. Andy Najar was another difference maker for the Black-and-Red. In the 19’, a spectacular tackle by Najar denied the Red Bulls’ top goal scorer, Lewis Morgan, a good look at the back of D.C.’s net.
Andy Najar would continue to contribute defensively during a hot start to the second half, continuing to repudiate the Red Bulls. While Chris Durkin provided Taxi Fountas with an assist, the decent opportunity in the 73’ to sneak past Red Bulls’ goalkeeper Carlos Coronel went wide and to the left. Fountas tried again a minute later, but again, the shot wasn’t on target.
While D.C. United was certainly out for all three points, they forced a Red Bulls team that has taken seven out of their ten wins on the road - to a draw. Man of the match Tony Alfaro said, “You know, I think it wasn’t just Rafa and the back four, but I think everybody did a good job. It was a collective effort. And, you know, we knew it was gonna be a war, it was gonna be a battle. And I think, obviously, we wanted to win, but we’re okay with the point at home.”
D.C. United heads north to Foxborough to take on the New England Revolution on August 13 at 7:30 pm ET.
- Kimarni Smith had a standout match. Smith has been on the rise for a while and tonight he was an absolutely dangerous starter. His first half performance left no doubt about his ability to contribute with good chances and a high work rate on the left wing.
- D.C. United’s first shutout in 13 games. Rafael Romo and the D.C. United back line put in work against the Red Bulls. Shutting out a team that has scored eight goals in their last two matches is definitely a positive.
- Fitness is still a work in progress. Rooney expressed the need for fitness to improve saying, “I think for all the players we really need to get them fit for 90 minutes. Because I’m constantly having to take players out because they’re not ready to play 90 minutes. So it’s something we really need to focus on. Allow me to make changes for technical reasons rather than players getting tired.”
MLS Regular Season - Game 23
D.C. United: 0
New York Red Bulls: 0
D.C. United: (4-2-3-1) Rafael Romo, Steve Birnbaum, Andy Najar (Russell Canouse 77’), Tony Alfaro, Chris Durkin, Kimarni Smith (Sami Guediri 55’), Sofiane Djeffal, Jackson Hopkins (Taxi Fountas 41’), Ravel Morrison, Miguel Berry (Ola Kamara 78’), Martín Rodríguez (Tedi Ku-DiPietro 78’)
New York Red Bulls: (5-4-1) Carlos Coronel, Sean Nealis, Aaron Long, Dylan Nealis, Critian Cásseres Jr., Dru Yearwood (Frankie Amaya 83’), John Tolkin, Cameron Harper (Andrés Reyes 74’), Tom Barlow (Patryk Klimala 56’), Omir Fernandez (Luquinhas 46’), Lewis Morgan (Caden Clark 74’)
D.C. United: Fountas 58’
New York Red Bulls: S. Nealis 90’ + 2’