WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 2019 installment of the Atlantic Cup between D.C. United and New York Red Bulls had all of the physicality and controversy of a classic rivalry. The Red Bulls came away with the 2-1 victory in a game that ended with 10 men on each side at Audi Field.
“It is no surprise that they came in here with a physical mentality,” Untied coach Ben Olsen said after the game. “Sometimes the first time you see it for the year, you are a little bit off and you play yourself into it. Unfortunately, that was the case tonight and we didn’t show up for about 10 to 15 minutes.”
With a familiar opponent, Olsen switched his formation to a 4-4-2 against New York. He opted for two strikers in Ola Kamara and captain Wayne Rooney. The two played together for 24 minutes before the English striker was sent off with a red card for violent conduct.
More controversial than the former Manchester United player seeing red was a penalty kick awarded to New York with the score knotted at one late in the second half. After review of the foul, Red Bulls winger Daniel Royer easily converted the penalty kick to recapture the lead in the 59th minute.
“It is the wrong call and it is a dive and it is a second yellow. So, what do I tell my guys in there that worked their [butts] off for 80 minutes and gave everything?” Olsen said. “One message is 80 minutes ain’t good enough and you have to play every minute and not put yourself in that spot by having a bad start, but after that I was extremely proud of the effort and the fight.”
In the past 12 games, United has conceded a first half goal in seven games. In those seven games, five of which were at home, United is 0-4-3. The same sluggish started plagued United Wednesday against the high-pressing Red Bulls.
“We have to snap out of it and really start to change,” defender Steve Birnbaum said. “Maybe it is our mentality going into game. Whatever it might be, we can’t start the game like that against our rival at home. It has to be better.”
In the sixth minute, D.C. United defender Jalen Robinson left his mark and found himself in a two-on-one situation with defender Rece Buckmaster and winger Marc Rzatkowski.
With space, Buckmaster passed the ball to Rzatkowski on the end line. The winger put a dangerous ball in front of net that fell to the foot of United midfielder Lucas Rodriguez, who gave the ball away. New York’s playmaker Kaku settled the ball and put one past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Red Bulls maintained pressure with another close call in the 18th minute with a point-blank attempt denied by Hamid.
“We showed up after the first goal and made it difficult. Everyone felt the intensity of the game like a rivalry game should be,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “The way that we fought for most of the game tonight, that is togetherness, that is having each others backs.”
While United was able to get the ball into the attacking half, the final touch was missing to find the equalizer in the first half.
Aug 21, 2019; Washington, D.C., USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) leaves the pitch after receiving a red card against the New York Red Bulls during the first half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
With frustration running high, Rooney stood tall next to midfielder Cristian Cásseres Jr on a set piece. United’s captain challenged Cásseres Jr with a forearm to the neck, which referee Ismail Elfath Elfath saw. After video review, Elfath sent Rooney off the field with a straight red card.
“Ask the referee. I think anyone who knows the game of football can see what the intent was. It was to try to ease the play out,” Rooney said. “Disappointed because I got a red card and disappointed because I didn’t agree with the decision.”
The game only got stranger from there. United had a chance to equalize in the 31st minute, when Kamara fed Arriola the ball. Arriola’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Luis Robles.
“I certainly haven’t been the sharpest in the final third this year,” Arriola said. “Often, I get a couple chances a game to put one away. I need to be a little more clinical on my end.”
In stoppage time, on a challenge in United’s attacking third, Amro Tarek and Arriola raced for the ball. Arriola fell to the ground and Elfath showed Tarek a yellow card. It was the second yellow for Tarek, who received a card for Unsportsmanlike Behavior in the 37th minute.
The Atlantic Cup rivals started the second half 10-on-10 and United stepped up the attacking energy. With a long ball from defender Joseph Mora, the Norwigian international Kamara placed a curling shot to the upper corner of the goal for the equalizer.
“I was excited to play at home for the first time and in front of the crowd. To be able to score a goal like that, it felt great,” Kamara said. “I would have liked it to be a result where you get a point or three points.”
Kamara was subbed off 15 minutes later as a precaution, according to Olsen.
“I thought he was the best player on the field. His holdup play was better than I imagined. The goal scoring stuff, we know he can do that,” Olsen said. “We need him for the rest of the year. Those are tough decisions to make when you are in the heat of the game, but you have to step aside and make the right call for him going forward.”
New York recaptured the lead four minutes later the controversial penalty kick call. With United chasing down Michael Murillo in the box, the defender appeared to trip and fall in the attack. Elfath, with the help of video review, ruled a penalty kick. The crowd of supporters behind Hamid rained down beers and a shoe in protest, but it was to no avail when Royer converted the penalty kick.
In the final minute of regular time, substitute Luciano Acosta sent a long cross that connected with the head of forward Quincy Amarikwa. Robles was able to get a diving hand on the ball to keep the lead. Despite eight minutes of stoppage time, United could not find the second equalizer.
United has dropped points in four of the last five games and fall below New York in the Eastern Conference. The team has a quick turnaround with a trip Saturday, Aug. 24 to the second place Philadelphia Union.
“I think we came into the season with the right mindset, with the right attitude, with the belief,” Arriola said. “We still have the belief that our focus right now is getting ourselves together and pushing ourselves into a top spot in the Eastern Conference and then it is the playoffs.”