After struggling to find a rhythm throughout — and still missing a few key players — D.C. United couldn’t spark the late-game heroics it relied on a week earlier, and its run in the U.S. Open Cup ended in the round of 16 when it fell flat in a 2-1 loss to New York City FC on Wednesday night at Audi Field.
United trailed by that margin at halftime and couldn’t produce the equalizer in the final 45 minutes. With the loss, D.C. United hasn’t advanced to the quarterfinals since 2013, when it won the tournament.
“It wasn’t a real mature performance from us,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “Bad habits defensively, poor turnovers. It was just an off night. Maybe the mentality and the importance of this game wasn’t there from our guys and maybe that trickles down from our preparation, so I’ll take a little bit of blame for that.”
As the first half neared its end, NYC scored twice — Alexandru Mitrita in the 38th minute, then Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in the 41st — to erase the lead United seized not long before. Wayne Rooney had scored in the 32nd, on a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner off a long pass from Ulises Segura, but the visitors responded with force. Rooney said a “lack of concentration" led to the sudden swing.
The past two U.S. Open Cup games — a win over Philadelphia a week earlierand Wednesday’s defeat — filled a short break in the MLS schedule, which Olsen sees as a positive. D.C. United, which hasn’t won a league game since May 12, will return to regular season play next Wednesday against Orlando City.
“We have to win,” Rooney said of the next match. “I think that’s clear to us. We have to win that game. The recent results aren’t good enough.”
NYC outshot United 15-4 in the first half, forcing United goalkeeper Chris Seitz to record five saves, which still wasn’t enough for a halftime lead. Rooney’s score was the only shot on goal for United in the first half.
“We had chances where we were countering,” midfielder Russell Canouse said, “but we didn’t play it out clean enough.”
United’s Chris Durkin played for the first time in more than a month, helping to replenish D.C.'s depth at defensive midfield, which the team lacked against Philadelphia. Durkin had been at the Under-20 World Cup with the U.S. team. He arrived in time for last week’s game but couldn’t play because of a suspension from his red card in last year’s U.S. Open Cup.
Durkin played most of Wednesday’s game alongside defensive midfielder Antonio Bustamante, who started last week but has yet to play a league game.
“There were some moments where they looked comfortable, and there were some moments where they looked a little young and had some naive moments,” Olsen said of the duo. “But that’s part of the growth process for both of those guys.”
Canouse, a usual starter at defensive midfield, missed the previous U.S. Open Cup matchup for precautionary reasons but entered the game in the 70th minute. Canouse “added a real quality to the game,” Olsen said, adding that he expects the midfielder to be ready to go by next week.
Thanks to national team call-ups, United is still without American winger Paul Arriola (Concacaf Gold Cup) and Venezuelan midfielder Junior Moreno (Copa America). They will be away for the next few MLS matches, too, but plenty of clubs around the league are dealing with similar absences.
Seitz played because usual starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid has been dealing with a minor knee injury. The club’s focus is for him to be healthy in time for the upcoming MLS games. NYC starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson is with the U.S. men’s national team at the Gold Cup, but backup Brad Stuver only needed to make two saves.
Even though United’s players called it a disappointing performance, Wednesday’s loss has no bearing on what the club hopes to accomplish in MLS play.
“You don’t want to lose and get out of any competition,” Olsen said, “but sometimes it’s also okay to just shut the door and move on.”
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