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DC United 1-0 Red Bulls: Kamara goal decides flat derby

Backline error unravels New York as road difficulties (and injuries) continue

MLS: New York Red Bulls at D.C. United Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The road woes continue for the New York Red Bulls.

A first half Ola Kamara finish was enough for DC United to secure three points at home in a 1-0 win over Gerhard Struber’s latest makeshift team on Sunday night. A flat performance in a slow, nondescript derby in the humidity of the nation’s capital leaves the Red Bulls out of playoff positioning heading into the season’s second half.

The night started with some optimism as Caden Clark returned to the starting lineup after a medium-term appendicitis layoff while Cristian Cásseres Jr also returned after being rested in the 1-1 draw midweek against Toronto FC. But despite controlling possession for much of the game, the Red Bulls rarely threatened the DC goal and conceded off of a self-inflicted backline error.

In the 27th minute, a bizarre lateral pass from right back Kyle Duncan to far-side center back Amro Tarek across the face of Carlos Coronel’s goal was intercepted by Julian Gressel, who crossed the ball to an onrushing Ola Kamara to finish past a helpless Coronel. Though Kamara would leave the game at halftime with a mouth injury after taking a cleared ball to the face, his goal wound up being the decisive factor of the night.

Though the lively Fábio was able to get off multiple impressive long-range attempts, the Red Bulls offense rarely found space to stage a comeback against an energetic DC United side rounding into form under first-year manager Hernan Losada. Kyle Duncan in particular struggled to advance the ball on attempted diagonal breakthroughs, while the standout Venezuela international Cásseres had perhaps his most indifferent creative performance of the year. Caden Clark, whose goals and pressing drove the team’s success enough to earn a pre-transfer to RB Leipzig, still appears off-pace following his appendix removal, while designated player signing Patryk Klimala had another quiet night.

The typically positive Gerhard Struber was reluctant to defend the flat performance and expressed frustration with the result and the team’s state going into the season’s second half.

“It’s a bad feeling, we are very very disappointed with this performance,” said the Austrian post-match. “We expected a tough game tonight, but I think in some of the personal battles we are not ready and we don’t have, again, the right energy to score goals.”

“I think against DC tonight it was sometimes like playing a game against a wall. We had to try recycling from side-to-side and I think sometimes we couldn’t find the right switches and the right long balls to break those lines. It was not a good performance and I cannot say we deserved more.”

Captain Sean Davis reiterated his manager’s message that the performance and result weren’t good enough and that the team has clear improvements to make.

“There’s no excuses, this was not good enough, and we know that especially against DC this sort of performance is not o.k. The first half energy and intensity wasn’t high enough.”

“It’s easy to say we’re a young team and we had some good moments, but we understand that this job is about winning and we understand tonight isn’t good enough. We have to learn some lessons quickly and if we’re going to win, we need to tap into what makes us a great team.”

Davis played much of the second half at center back after yet again the Red Bulls suffered a seemingly-innocuous injury to a defender with Tom Edwards leaving the match after several minutes of playing with a clear limp. After the game Gerhard Struber said that the team is “close” on potential signings at center back, and acknowledged that the pile-up of injuries has affected his team over the summer.

But like Davis, the manager also refused to use the potential excuses on hand for the team’s state and trusted his team’s ability to make needed improvements ahead of a crucial stretch of games.

“I’m not going to say it’s a young team or we have had too many injuries because normally this team is ready to create a good performance. We have to find the reasons that we don’t put together a good performance today but nevertheless, I have a good feeling and a big trust in our team going forward.”