A confident start by the visiting New York Red Bulls was unmatched by sloppy DC United play, resulting in a sixth minute goal for the energy drinks, an early prediction of the eventual outcome. 

DC continued to play badly, and the refereeing didn’t help either. A ridiculous VAR decision in the 24th minute of play saw DC’s captain and star Wayne Rooney red carded and sent off, and the onslaught continued. 

In the 26th minute, a blatant handball in the box from the Red Bulls’ defender Rece Buckmaster, went uncalled which had many fans wondering why VAR was even a thing if they didn’t call “clear and obvious errors.” Missed chances from DC and heart-stopping counter-attacks from New York were the story of the remainder of the first half. In first half stoppage time, New York defender Amro Tarek was shown his second yellow, sending him off for the remainder of the game and, adding even more drama to an already action-packed game.

After this exhilarating first half, it was obvious that that the Atlantic Cup rivalry was back on. After years of mediocre performances, fans got what they paid for: drama. 

As the second half started, it was evident that DC Head Coach Ben Olsen’s halftime pep talk was working, as the black and red came out with more aggressive play. This strong start came to fruition for DC as new acquisition, forward Ola Kamara, scored an absolute beauty. He dribbled around a player from around 25 yards away, took a touch to the side, then curled a screamer into the far corner of the net. The nickname “gOla Kamara” is sure to stick. DC United fans’ moods would change in just two short minutes when winger Titi Rodriguez would give away a careless penalty. When the replay came up on the big screen, DC fans were prompted to chant “VAR! VAR!” And when no replay was allowed, they proceeded to throw bottles and debris onto the pitch. A classless act almost halted the game, but a timely PA announcement quickly put a stop to the bottle throwing. 

New York’s right winger, Daniel Royer, slotted the ensuing penalty away from goalkeeper Bill Hamid, which gave the visitors a 2-1 lead in the 59th minute of action. 

Twenty minutes of missed chances followed the penalty drama, and in the 80th minute, something clicked for DC United. Midfielder Luciano Acosta took over the game, creating chance after chance for DC, but nothing came from his efforts. After 11 minutes of stoppage time because of injuries throughout the game, the game ended 2-1 in favor of the Red Bulls. 

This was the game this rivalry needed. After a few years of lackluster games between the two sides, a late-season game with playoff implications between two exciting yet underperforming teams was what everyone needed. DC United needs to work on their defense, plain and simple. The first goal by New York was allowed because of a woeful clearance, and a careless trip from winger Titi Rodriguez led to the second. The way DC played in the final 20 minutes — with a lot of urgency — is how they need to play throughout the entire game. A lack of energy on the Black & Red has been evident during the last few weeks, including during a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on August 4.

With about four weeks until DC United’s next home game, and two difficult road matchups against the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders on the horizon, they will have to string together a couple of strong performances to remain in playoff position. 

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