The hits just keep coming for D.C. United, who added another candidate to their potential worst losses of this dreadful 2017 season tonight against Minnesota United. Facing an MNUFC side sitting 21st out of 22 in MLS, and who entered the match on a 351 scoreless streak, the Black-and-Red contrived to fall to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat against the Loons in the first meeting between the two clubs.
Following two galling losses last week, Ben Olsen rang some changes. Steve Birnbaum returned to the lineup, but surprisingly replaced Kofi Opare rather than Bobby Boswell. Sean Franklin stepped back in at right back, as did Marcelo Sarvas at defensive midfield. Nick DeLeon made his first start since mid-April, coming in on the left flank for the injured Patrick Nyarko. Finally, Bill Hamid returned from Gold Cup duty to take over in goal.
Unfortunately, some things don’t change. United found themselves down 1-0 by the 7th minute, and in maddening fashion. A D.C. throw-in on the right was quickly turned over, and Kevin Molino held off tackles from Luciano Acosta and Marcelo to win himself a pocket of space. Marcelo backed way off, giving Minnesota’s top playmaker plenty of room to clip a ball over the United back four to Christian Ramirez, who lashed a fine finish past Hamid.
Deshorn Brown provided most of United’s attempts at a quick retaliation. He fired wide after Acosta had sent him running at Michael Boxall on the edge of the box, before a 15th minute solo raid saw him strip Ibson of the ball, send Francisco Calvo tumbling with a cut inside, only for Bobby Shuttleworth to tip his left-footed shot wide.
DeLeon, having switched flanks with Sam midway through the half, had United’s best look yet in the 38th minute. He dribbled past stand-in left back Ismaila Jome to get into the area, then skipping inside Calvo. Sadly, DeLeon’s low shot was at Shuttleworth, who managed an awkward save, and the Loons scrambled it clear.
It was a miss United would regret, as two minutes later Minnesota would double their lead. A turnover in midfield from Marcelo - a recurring theme throughout the first half for the Black-and-Red’s central midfield - sparked a three-on-two break for the home side, and they took full advantage. Molino slipped the ball to his right for Abu Danladi, who fired low to the near post. Danladi’s shot was powerful, but it was still a goal Hamid will want back.
United made two subs at halftime, with Lamar Neagle and Jared Jeffrey replacing Acosta and Ian Harkes, who both reportedly left with knocks. For Acosta the issue was said to be his nagging ankle issues, while Harkes was said to have picked up a thigh problem during the first half. DeLeon moved into the #10 role as a result of the re-shuffle.
Jeffrey nearly made an instant impact, sending a teasing ball in behind the Minnesota defense. Brown, showing real speed, managed to race away from Calvo and poke it past the on-rushing Shuttleworth. The goal was open, but unfortunately the touch needed to avoid Shuttleworth took Brown well wide, and his low-angle shot ended up finding only the outside netting.
United went even closer in the 52nd minute. Lloyd Sam’s corner kick tempted Shuttleworth off his line, with Franklin getting loose and beating the former New England goalkeeper to the ball. Sadly, Franklin only managed to head a foot over the crossbar, letting Shuttleworth off the hook for his error.
The Black-and-Red were showing real signs of life, which made what came in the 58th minute all the more of a gut-punch. A Minnesota counter saw Miguel Ibarra - on for the injured Ramirez before halftime - into a big gap on the right wing. Ibarra’s driven cross was just over the heads of Danladi and Birnbaum at the near post, but it fell right at the feet of Jeffrey, who couldn’t set his feet in time to avoid bundling the ball past Hamid for a nail-in-the-coffin own goal.
A 65th minute header back across goal from Birnbaum, who had stayed forward following a free kick, found Brown inside the six. Brown really should have put this opportunity away, with Shuttleworth caught two steps out of position, but he couldn’t quite angle the ball inside the back post. It was just that kind of night for United.
Patrick Mullins came on for his first appearance since May 27th, replacing DeLeon and playing essentially the same #10 role that DeLeon had been in. He had a long-range blast fly just over in the 71st minute. In the 80th minute, he had an even better chance after Sam picked him out with a delicate pass. Mullins had time and space, but ripped his shot a yard over the bar. It felt like a summation of this entire season for United.
Mullins curled a free kick just a yard high of picking out the top corner after Neagle won a rather comical foul from Sam Cronin 26 yards out, but in truth the game had essentially ended as a contest the moment Ibarra’s cross caromed off of Jeffrey.
Of course, the Loons were not actually done. United got caught with numbers forward trying to press the ball during a spell of Minnesota possession. Marcelo was accidentally blocked off by referee Robert Sibiga - it was that kind of night, friends - and Ibarra raced in soon thereafter for a 1v1 with Bobby Boswell. Ibarra set himself up for a left-footed shot that flashed inches from Boswell’s foot and headed towards the back post. Hamid got down and got a full hand on it, but couldn’t take enough sting off of the shot, which tricked in to add to United’s misery.
Fresh off of a stretch in which they’ve conceded 15 goals in 4 games against Western Conference clubs, United will return to Eastern Conference play against a Toronto FC team that appears to be either the best or joint-best team in the league at the moment. That game will take place on August 5th at 7:00pm at RFK Stadium.