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Mitrita, Tajouri-Shradi lead NYCFC over D.C. United in U.S. Open Cup

D.C. United would score first, but NYCFC got the last laugh at Audi Field, scoring a pair of goals in a three-minute span to win 2-1 and advance into the quarterfinals.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It only took 90 minutes for the visiting New York City FC to knock D.C. United out of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday at a humid Audi Field. 

A week after United found the moxie to take down Philadelphia Union 2-1 in 120 minutes of play, NYCFC defeated the home side with two first-half goals scored in a three-minute span. That would be enough as NYCFC hung on for a 2-1 win to advance to the quarterfinals of the 106-year-old tournament.

“I just didn’t think it was a great night from us. I am not sure why, but it wasn’t a real mature performance from us. Bad habits defensively, poor turnovers. It was an off night,” D.C. coach Ben Olsen said. “In the end, the focus is solely on Orlando and the second half of the (MLS) season at this point. There are some positives to that. You don’t want to lose and get out of any competition, but sometimes it is okay to shut the door and move on.” 

United started the game with an early challenge to NYCFC goalkeeper Brad Stuver in the first minute. Midfielder Luciano Acosta danced through defenders and found the feet of Wayne Rooney, who turned into a group of three NYCFC defenders. The shot rang off the post. Midfielder Ulises Segura streaked into the box and sent the rebound high over the crossbar.

New York had a chance of its own in the first ten minutes on a set piece. Defender Maxime Chanot lifted a ball from the corner into the six-yard box, which connected with Héber and went into the net. The only problem, the ball connected with Héber’s hand and the goal was disallowed. 

The game evened out for both teams as the half continued. United found spells of possession, one of which resulted in the opening goal. Segura intercepted a NYCFC pass at midfield in the 31st minute. After about a minute of possession, United utilized its defenders and goalkeeper Chris Seitz to get the ball back up to Segura. The Costa Rican midfielder sent a long pass into the 18-yard box for Rooney. The United captain finished the play with a goal.

“We had a good start with the 1-0,” midfielder Russell Canouse said. “It would have been nice to go into half time and hold that lead. I think we got stretched a little bit during that last 15 to 20 minutes of the first half and we got punished for it.”

That punishment came in the form of two goals in less than three minutes for NYCFC. 

The equalizer came in the 38th minute thanks to a precisely placed through-ball by the youngster Keaton Parks. Parks found Alexandru Mitrita, who was running between United’s center backs. Mitrita slotted the equalizer past defender Leonardo Jara and Seitz. Two minutes later, Parks won the ball from Lucas Rodriguez to start the counter attack. Forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi cut inside of defender Steve Birnbaum and caused him to lose his balance. Tajouri-Shradi swiftly tucked NYCFC’s second goal between the back post and Seitz. 

“It was just a lack of concentration,” Rooney said. “(New York’s) first goal was coming. I think they had two chances very similar… They (did) well to identify the space to make good runs and good passes.”

Jun 19, 2019; Washington, D.C., USA; D.C. United goalkeeper Chris Seitz (1) reacts after a goal by New York City FC midfielder Ismael Tajouri (not pictured) as New York City FC forward Heber (9) celebrates in the first half of a round of sixteen match in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Despite adding fresh legs and showing a small spark in the second half, United failed to complete more than two shots on target in the final 45 minutes.

Defender Jalen Robinson subbed on for right back Jara, who dealt with an illness. He was not 100 percent going into Wednesday’s game, according to Olsen.

The addition switched United briefly to a three-defender backline, but the change did not add much to the attack.

“We put in Jalen and went to a three back to try to change the game and be a little more man-oriented throughout the field,” Olsen said. “We looked a little uncomfortable in that and we went back to the four (defenders).”

Coming back from a minor ankle injury, Canouse substituted on for the young homegrown player Antonio Bustamante, who was competing in his second match for United. Players like Canouse had an opportunity to get minutes and rhythm heading into the second half of the season. 

“I didn’t train the last two weeks,” Canouse said. “I felt tired getting into a game like that with the 20 minutes, but it was definitely needed going into our next stretch.” 

United made a last minute effort in stoppage time to tie the score, but its overtime luck had run dry. Following a United corner, Rooney lobbed a ball into the box. Segura had a chance on net, but Stuver got in the way of the ball. The loss was not completely wasted on United, who benefited from having games during this break in league play. 

“Playing against a high-quality opponent during this void has been good,” Olsen said. “Losses are emotional but we will rebound. We will be able to close the door quickly on this and really focus in on the second half of the season.”

With Open Cup behind them, United turns its focus back to league play. They host Orlando City SC on Wednesday, June 26 at 8 p.m. ET. 

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