WASHINGTON – In the dying minutes of the second half, D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen yelled at his players to run forward into attack. After tying the game at 2-2, an extra five minutes were allotted to give the home side a chance to earn a comeback victory at home.
However, missed scoring opportunities and the inability to adjust to a new tactical formation at a faster time would come back to haunt the Black-and-Red as the New England Revolution were able to hold on to the result despite being down 10 men. United was forced to settle for the draw in front of 18,903 spectators at Audi Field on July 12.
It is the fifth draw at home for United (8-5-8) this season. Losing out on another positive result keeps them four points behind the Philadelphia Union for first place in the Eastern Conference.
“It is still disappointing that we cannot get three points at home,” Olsen said. “We have dropped way too many points here.”
Playing without their star midfielder Luciano Acosta due to a red card suspension, United changed their formation from their usual four defenders to a five-man backline. According to Olsen, the change was made to allow wing backs, Leonardo Jara and Joseph Mora, to influence the attack. Defenders Steve Birnbaum and Donovan Pines added coverage defensively in case of counterattacks.
However, it would take less than four minutes for New England to pounce. A long-pass from the Revolution backline received a header flicked forward by striker Juan Fernando Caicedo. Teal Bunbury ran towards the ball, outrunning Birnbaum and sliding a low shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid for the game’s opening goal.
New England (6-8-6) almost added a second goal in the 18th minute when a Luis Caicedo shot deflected off a United defender, forcing Hamid to make a diving save. It would take United over 30 minutes to wake up offensively when midfielder Lucas Rodríguez’s opportunity sailed over the crossbar.
The Revolution used United’s misfortune in front of goal to their advantage in the 32nd minute. A long pass from their defensive line creates a crossing play for midfielder Juan Agudelo. Hamid made a quick save with his knees off to protect his goal. However, forward Carles Gil pounced on the loose ball and slotted in a one-timer for the Revolution’s second score of the game.
Before halftime, United responded. Midfielder Paul Arriola, who was making his first appearance after spending time with the U.S. Men’s National Team, delivered a 20-yard cross from the left side of the field to New England’s penalty area. Jara chased down the cross and smashed a shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner to score his first goal with D.C. United.
“That was something we had practiced,” Jara said. “We expected them to bunch in the middle to find the back post. So, me and (Mora) were ready for that and I was ready to be in the right spot for the goal.”
“We get the goal in a half that isn’t perfect and grew into the structure that we have only been playing for a few days,” Olsen said. “You saw in the second half, we got much better.”
Coming out of the intermission, two yellow cards in 14 minutes to midfielder Wilfried Zahibo forced the Revolution to play with 10 men for the final 27 minutes. United began by attacking at-will when possible but could not score the tying goal. Striker Wayne Rooney failed to convert on an Arriola cross, sending his shot over the crossbar.
As time began to run out, United made key substitutions to keep the attack flowing forward. One of those substitutes, reserve striker Quincy Amarikwa, crushed a Rooney free-kick cross with a karate kick volley to tie the game with four minutes remaining. However, Olsen and his players believe it was an opportunity lost to earn a home victory.
“It is a blow and we are not happy about it,” Birnbaum said. “Obviously, one point is better than zero but we expected three from home.”
United will play their next three league games on the road before they host Philadelphia Union on Aug. 4. In between their road matches, they will host French side Olympique de Marseille in a friendly on July 24.