WASHINGTON, D.C.–D.C. United fought through the summer heat and a sluggish start to earn a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution Friday at Audi Field.
It was a Wayne Rooney free kick that connected with the flying foot of substitute Quincy Amarikwa to level the game in the final four minutes. Though the team finished in exciting fashion, United came out of the gates flat.
Poor turnovers and sloppy fouls plagued United in the first half, which allowed the Revs to get on the board early. A turnover in the fourth minute, gave way to a long Revolution clearance that hit the foot of Teal Bunbury. The winger was able to dodge center back Steve Birnbaum and slot a far post shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The 29-year-old veteran has scored in four of his last five matches for New England.
“It is a tough way to start the game, giving up a quick goal like that,” Birnbaum said. “It is one of those things where we had to play ourselves into the game.”
At the half hour mark, Bunbury won possession again from Birnbaum to create a goal. Birnbaum attempted to head the ball out of danger but momentum took it the other way and fell to the feet of Bunbury. He sent a cross to teammate Juan Agudelo. Rookie defender Donovan Pines was manning Agudelo and another Revs attacker and could not stop the shot. Hamid slid to block the ball with his knees, but missed the rebounded ball by Carles Gil.
“The flick-on is pretty school boy stuff,” coach Ben Olsen said. “That is a rare thing that happens with us. And then we get caught with numbers down for the cross and they get the rebound.”
Without starting midfielder Luciano Acosta, due to red card suspension, United lineed up with a five-man backline. While the team has used three center backs in a similar formations six times this season, Friday was the first time since June 1 against the San Jose Earthquakes and the first time with Pines playing behind the wingback Leonardo Jara. Pines’ athleticism allowed Jara to push into the attack.
With energy waning, United found a spark in the final two minutes of the half. Paul Arriola, who returned from international duty this week, charged at defenders on the left side before lofting a long cross into the six yard box. Jara swiftly volleyed the ball into the back of the net to cut the lead in half before the break.
“Donovan had a pretty good night stepping in there,” Olsen said. “That is probably Leo Jara’s best position where he can add to the attack a little bit more … The idea there is Donovan could cover [for] Leo.”
In the second half, United found its footing and thanks to Jara’s goal they had a little more fight in them.
“We figured it out and that is what I am proud about tonight,” Olsen said. “We grew into the game [and] into the structure that we have been working on for only a few days.”
Luck fell in favor of United in the 63rd minute when referee Ted Unkel showed midfielder Wilfried Zahibo a second yellow for unsporting behavior within 13 minutes of the first booking.
Up a man in the 70th minute, Arriola received a ball in the attacking third and sent it across to Rooney, who missed the close-range chance.
“The defender was going to clear it when he missed it, I had no time to react,” Rooney said. “It come off me shin and off the crossbar. It is one of them where it looks easy, but it is one which you can’t react to.”
With United knocking on the Revolution’s doorstep, Olsen made two crucial substitutions, including adding Amarikwa to the attack. Four minutes later, Amarikwa found the back of the net.
On a routine free kick from Rooney, Amarikwa found enough space inside the box to flick an awkward ball behind Turner to equalize. United’s last chance to find all three points went wide on a shot from Rodriguez in stoppage time.
“I just thought we would have a better chance if I put it in the middle of the goal,” Rooney said. “That is a typical Quincy goal. I don’t know how he finished it but it was a fantastic finish.”
The Black-and-Red settled for a point instead of three during five of its past seven games. United now heads on a short road trip next week, with a game in Cincinnati on Thursday and a game against reigning MLS champions Atlanta United Sunday.
“Most people who are unfamiliar with the MLS don’t understand the importance of grinding out the season,” Amarikwa said. “The teams who over extended themselves pay the price toward the end of the summer. Looking at the big picture, getting points is most important.”