Ryan Meara could only get a hand on Erik Sorga ‘s goal.(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Buoyed by a draw and a valuable road point at the New England Revolution over the weekend, the Red Bulls wasted a golden opportunity at home Wednesday night.
They wasted it big time.
Despite outplaying a struggling D.C. United side for long stretches of the match, they could not muster a goal in what turned into a disastrous 1-0 defeat at Red Bull Arena.
How disastrous was it? The Red Bulls conceded a goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time. United took two corner kicks in a row. On the second attempt, ew York failed to clear the area and the ball came out to Erik Sorga, who headed the ball down and then let rip a 25-yard shot. Goalkeeper Ryan Meara dove to his right and got a hand on the ball, but could not stop it from going into the net.
The stunned Red Bulls immediately complained, and probably wanted to know if a D.C. player was offside. Referee Nima Saghafi, with the help of the Video Assistant Referee, said the goal stood. The hosts kicked off and seconds later the Red Bulls suffered their first loss at RBA to D.C. in 11 games.
“The ball is bouncing around, fell to their guy at the top of the box,” Meara said. “He gets a nice shot, took a deflection and came through a lot of traffic. I was complaining that there were two guys offside right in front of me, but I guess the ref saw it differently.”
Leaving Jersey with nothing but smiles after this one 👏Audi USA | #VamosUnited
Posted by D.C. United on Wednesday, September 2, 2020
It was the first time in three home games that the Red Bulls (3-4-2, 11 points) failed to register a win during Phase I of the MLS return to action.
It turned out to be a major victory for D.C. (2-4-3, 9), which had endured more than its share of struggles this season. United had just come off a 4-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union.
“It’s a quiet locker room right now. Some guys don’t know what to say beause it hurts,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas told MSG. “We create chances, but we don’t take them. We’re all pissed off right now. We’re all down.”
It turned out to be a tough night for two Red Bulls veterans. Center back Aaron Long (67th minute) and captain and midfielder Sean Davis (71st minute) were forced out of the match with leg injuries only four minutes apart in the second half.
It also turned out to be another long night for the Red Bulls attack, if you could call it that. Their forwards have yet to find the net in nine games and the team has totaled seven goals, averaging less than one per game. And the Red Bulls have yet to score off a set piece this season.
The Red Bulls also outshot United, 17-5.
On a brighter note, Massapequa, N.Y. native Sean Nealis made his first start of the season, replacing Tim Parker, a fellow Long Islander from Hicksville, at center back. Parker sat out the game due to a red card he incurred in the 1-1 deadlock at New England Saturday night.
“We aimed for a shutout and didn’t get it tonight,” Nealis said told MSG afterwards. “We’re a little pissed off. “We’re obvioulsy disappointed we didn’t get the result.”
Despite enjoying a substantial of the possession in the D.C. end of the field and more opportunities, a frustrated Red Bulls side walked off the field with a halftime scoreless tie.
They had several opportunities to celebrate a goal, but could not connect.
Tom Barlow, who personally outshot the visitors in the opening 45 minutes, 5-2, had the three best chances. In the 12th minute, he sent a shot from the top right of the box right to goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
Some 15 minutes later, he had two quick, hard shots from the right side that were denied. First, Seitz saved his first attempt. The ball came back to Barlow, who fired a shot off the woodwork.
During a 32nd-minute counterattack, Ole Kamara had United’s best opportunity as he forced Meara to make a two-handed save on his left-sided shot.
Kamara almost found the net in the 52nd minute as he raced in on Meara but Nealis, tracking back, barely got a foot on the ball and deflected it out of bounds.