DC United enter break on sour note with listless loss to Red Bulls

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HARRISON, NJ — Saturday marked DC United’s last regular season game for three weeks, and amid the club’s lackluster start to the MLS campaign, a visit to Red Bull Arena provided an opportunity to create some good vibes before the long break.

As interim coach Chad Ashton said two days earlier, “You definitely don’t want to have a bad taste in your mouth for that long.”

The taste will be rancid.

Without injured star Taxi Fountas, United survived half-time before being buried by the New York Red Bulls in a three-goal, nine-minute blitz filled with failed clearances and sensational finishes. The 4-1 result could have been worse and left United (4-7-2) with a four-game winless streak to watch until the season resumes on June 18 in Chicago.

“The first half was a professional half,” defender Brendan Hines-Ike said. “The second half was an amateur half.”

“Maybe the break comes at the right time,” he said. “It will be very difficult to wait to play again. It is in your mind. It doesn’t even hurt. It’s pure anger. Guys need to watch each other. Nobody wants to be in this situation. We are going in the wrong direction.

Between the 54th and 63rd minute, Brazilian Luquin scored back-to-back goals and Lewis Morgan added a stunning volley for the Red Bulls (6-3-5), who won their first at home after two defeats and four draws.

Ola Kamara scored for United in the 87th minute, and Tony Alfaro’s own goal capped the miserable half. Since starting the season with two shutouts, United have conceded at least two goals in nine of 11 matches.

“This one hurts,” said captain Steven Birnbaum. “He is our rival. It’s a game I felt we were ready for. We expected to take points, and losing as we did, it will sting for a long time. It will probably sting until the next game.

Fountas has been sensational since joining in early April, posting five goals and three assists in seven appearances. However, back spasms forced him to miss this trip. The injury is also expected to end his hopes of joining the Greek national team for the first time since September. Greece are scheduled to play four UEFA Nations League matches from June 2-12.

Taxi Fountas has arrived for DC United, endearing himself to teammates, fans and turtles

Without him, United haven’t generated many quality possessions or genuine chances. The Red Bulls were better on the ball and in their build-up, but with United defenders making timely tackles in the box the game went goalless at half-time.

“We felt like there was still an opportunity at half-time,” Ashton said, “but we needed to raise our level of competition; we needed to raise our mentality; we needed to be a bit more courageous.

United eventually created a danger, but after bringing goalkeeper Carlos Coronel out, Julian Gressel missed the small side.

A minute later, the Red Bulls went ahead. Bill Hamid blocked Frankie Amaya’s shot, but the rebound fell on Luquinhas, who pumped in a 12-yarder.

Four minutes passed before the Brazilian struck again, latching on to a Chris Durkin clearance attempt and sending a sliding volley 14 yards into the far corner.

Five minutes more, another goal for the Red Bulls: a corner, two DC touches, then a wicked volley from Morgan from 25 yards out that deflected past Hamid’s reach and into the far net.

“As a group we know there’s a lot to do, but as individuals the guys have to think about the first third of the season knowing there’s still two thirds to go,” Hines said. Ike. “It’s not the start of the season anymore. We either have to come out shooting or we’ll end up dead.

With the transfer and swap window opening in July, Ashton said: “We need quality.”

What else to know from United’s loss:

While Fountas was out, defensive midfielder Russell Canouse returned to the lineup after missing a game with a hamstring condition. He partnered with rookie Sofiane Djeffal, leaving Durkin on the bench.

However, Durkin didn’t have to wait long. Wing-back Brad Smith left in the 18th minute with a groin injury, and Durkin was pushed into an unknown position.

Despite conceding Toronto’s late equalizer last weekend, Hamid retained his starting position ahead of Rafael Romo. Centre-back Donovan Pines was back in the line-up after being used as a substitute last week, and in place of Fountas Nigel Robertha made his first start since April 16.

Although United are entering a long break in the league, they will not be idle. The second Capital Cup at Audi Field will feature DC hosting Águila (El Salvador) on Wednesday and Xelajú (Guatemala) on June 7. The visiting clubs will face off on June 4.

Ashton is expected to provide ample opportunities for secondary players, as well as bringing in reinforcements from Second Division Loudoun United.

United and Dynamo Kyiv could not agree on a date for a June friendly at Audi Field, people inside and outside the MLS organization have said. The plan was to raise funds for relief efforts in war-torn Ukraine.

Dynamo, who had been looking to play several matches this summer in North America, encountered player availability issues during the international window in the first half of June, and United faced the resumption of the regular season soon after. long after the window is closed.

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