NYCFC slipped to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of DC United on Wednesday night. Steven Birnbaum’s second-half header claimed all three points for the visitors, after Héber had canceled out Ola Kamara’s opener at Red Bull Arena.
Article originally published on NYCFC.com
Interim Head Coach Nick Cushing made three changes to the side that traveled to Orlando on Sunday, as Santiago Rodríguez, Héber and Tayvon Gray returned to the starting XI in place of Thiago Andrade, Maxi Moralez and the injured Thiago Martins.
The first chance of the game arrived on the quarter-hour mark, as Héber collcted Malte Amundsen’s pass and unleashed a low half-volley goalward, which D.C. goalkeeper David Ochoa was equal to and gathered at the second attempt before Santi Rodríguez could pounce on the rebound.
Sean Johnson was then called into action, saving well with his feet to deny Chris Durkin before Amundsen scrambled clear in the nick of time with Chris Odoi-Atsem lurking.
The Pigeons’ shot-stopper could do little about the opening goal though on 24 minutes with Durkin turning provider, latching onto Martin Rodriguez’s thorugh-ball and crossing for Kamara to tap in from close range.
The lead lasted only three minutes as New York mounted an instant response. Again, Amundsen was involved, sliding a low delivery into Héber’s path after a well-worked cross-field team move, and the Forward’s deflected effort bounced past Ochoa and into the roof of the net.
With the momentum, the home side pushed for a second goal but were forced into an early change, as Vuk Latinovich was introduced after Anton Tinnerholm limped off with what looked to be a hamstring injury.
Though New York continued to press after the break – Héber unable to get a shot away after rounding the ‘keeper and Gray heading off-target – it would be D.C. who would strike again via at set-piece when Birnbaum planted a header past Johnson from Martin Rodriguez’s free-kick delivery.
In response, Cushing opted for a triple substitution, introducing Maxi Moralez, Thiago Andrade and Gedion Zelalem for Héber, Gabriel Pereira and Justin Haak, before handing a debut to the lively Matías Pellegrini.
The changes injected a fresh impetus and tempo, though the MLS Champions struggled to create clear-cut chances.
Thiago looked to make an impact with an attempted overhead kick, while at the other end Christian Benteke almost marked his first MLS game with a goal but was denied by Johnson at the near post to keep the home side alive.
In a late flurry of action, Maxime Chanot, Pellegrini and Talles Magno all went in search of a dramatic leveler but fired off-target.
Zelalem came closest to an equalizer with a powerful effort from outside the area in injury-time but Ochoa produced a superb fingertip save to claw the ball away from the top corner and D.C. held on for the win.
The games are coming thick and fast for the Boys in Blue, who travel to New England Revolution on Sunday, August 4 in an 8:00PM ET kickoff. (ESPN+/YES network/NYCFC.com/Radio)