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D.C. United falls short against LAFC, Rooney gets a red

WASHINGTON, D.C. — D.C. United couldn’t handled the high-powered Los Angeles FC offense Saturday in front of an announced 20,600 sellout crowd at Audi Field.

“In possession [we were] not good enough. Out of possession [we were] not hard working enough,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “Our pulse was wrong from the get-go in the biggest game of the year, so that part is concerning. I will look to myself first.

The skill level of LAFC captain Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi is no secret, but United failed to find a solution to LA’s press. 

“I am not concerned about the pace,” Olsen said. “I am concerned about our decision making and how much space we give opponents. Today we didn’t do a good job in transition or understanding where the dangerous space was.”

Before the defeat to LAFC, United used the same lineup every weekend. That lineup worked pretty well for the first five weeks, with an offense that was scoring goals and a defense that let in just one. 

Last week’s injury to defender Joseph Mora forced United to make a change ahead Saturday’s game. Olsen slotted MLS veteran Chris McCann into the emptied spot in the starting XI, but everything else remained the same.

United’s solid backline quickly disintegrated against the stars of Los Angeles. Mistakes by United’s typically-solid defensive midfield gave LAFC an opportunity to take the lead, but it was Vela and Rossi who made the goals works of art.

In the 15th minute, United defender Leonardo Jara passed a ball back. A lapse in communication between Jara, defender Frederic Brillant and midfielder Russell Canouse allowed LAFC forward Adama Diomande enough time to rush in and lay a ball off to Vela. Vela cut back and, as if in slow motion, slotted the ball past goalkeeper Bill Hamid. 

“That [was] the first time this year that we had to deal with being under fire,” United forward Quincy Amarikwa said. “We just got a little bit outside of ourselves because we just wanted to prove that the first goal was a fluke. I think in doing that we extended ourselves in the midfield and then they punished us.”

Vela has been touted as a Major League Soccer MVP favorite already this season. He showed exactly why with his goal against United, but it was forward Diego Rossi who stole the show. Rossi recorded a hat trick in LAFC’s 4-0 win over United.

“This is not just on us, they are a good team. Make no mistake,” Olsen said. “They are balanced. They seem to be working extremely hard for each other and they have a super star on the field, but I told the guys afterwards, ‘so do we.'”

LAFC’s second goal came from a total team effort in transition. Vela finished with a cross to Rossi, who did his best impression of his teammate and doubled the lead.

Turnovers plagued United once more before halftime, when Mark-Anthony Kaye intercepted midfielder Paul Arriola’s pass to Russell Canouse. Rossi got on the end of the ball and chipped in the third goal.

In the second half, United’s superstar Wayne Rooney went into a challenge against Rossi with his cleat studs up. Referee Robert Sibiga initially showed Rooney a yellow, but after video review he switched yellow for red.

“It was a red card,” Rooney said. “[I] lunged to win the ball and [I] caught the player. I have no arguments, but it was not malicious.”

Rossi added the exclamation point to the visitors’ win, completing his hat trick in the 76th minute and LAFC handed United its first loss of 2019. 

“The best thing for a team when you lose, especially a game like today, is to play again quickly and we have the opportunity to play on Tuesday at home again,” Rooney said. “It is a great opportunity to try to put this game behind us.”

Due to the red card, Rooney won’t be on the field against the Montreal Impact on Tuesday, April 9 at Audi Field. It will be the first time since his arrival that United must play 90 minutes without its English captain.

“Things are going our way. We have the same team every weekend and here comes an injury and a suspension,” Olsen said. “This is the MLS season, so buckle up.”

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