United got off to a nightmare start, and never improved as they fell below the red line
In one of the biggest games of the season, D.C. United produced its worst night at the office in 2021, falling 6-0 to NYCFC. United were down 3-0 by the 11th minute, and never looked like mounting a comeback. Valentín Castellanos scored two of those early goals, and even using all five substitutions at halftime couldn’t spark a response from the Black-and-Red.
In the midst of a jam-packed schedule, United was able to start Bill Hamid, who had been in doubt after appearing to have a hamstring issue mid-week. Hernán Losada had to do without Andy Najar, though, and made three changes to the side that fell 3-2 to New England: Tony Alfaro, Junior Moreno, and Kevin Paredes replaced Chris Odoi-Atsem, Felipe Martins, and Drew Skundrich.
United managed to force Sean Johnson to claim a cross in the first 15 seconds of the match, yet stunningly ended up behind in the 1st minute. NYCFC broke through midfield on the counter before play moved out to the left. Malte Amundsen had room to size up a low cross and picked out Thiago Andrade, who slashed in behind Joseph Mora to bury a tap-in.
The bad start got worse in the 7th minute, as a debacle at the back gave the home side a second goal. Hamid came out of the box to try and clear a ball from danger, but didn’t make good contact. The ball rolled right to Valentín Castellanos, who duly lobbed the ball into the empty net.
And yet, that wasn’t rock bottom. Four minutes later, a simple back pass from Donovan Pines to Steven Birnbaum saw the D.C. captain slip, and Castellanos pounced, putting the Black-and-Red behind by three by burying the resulting breakaway.
United nearly pulled one back in the 22nd minute. Steven Birnbaum’s long throw-in caused chaos, and Sean Johnson flapped at a flick-on. The ball fell to Ola Kamara, whose bullet header was destined to go in only for Johnson to recover and tip it over the bar at the last moment.
Just as United were starting to find some footing, NYCFC closed the door on any chance at a comeback in the 45th minute. The Pigeons countered up the left, with Santiago Rodríguez getting time to clip the ball over the defense for Castellanos. The Argentine went for a bicycle kick, but was denied by Hamid. What followed, though, summed up the first half: Maxi Moralez — who sprung the break with a switch at midfield — was the only player to anticipate the rebound, and the veteran playmaker buried it from an angle.
Losada understandably made changes, with the first-ever quintuple substitution in club history at halftime. Skundrich, Felipe, Odoi-Atsem, Griffin Yow, and Ramón Ábila all coming on at the break as DCU moved into a 433.
Sadly, little changed, and United were again not up to the task as NYCFC made it 5-0. They initially dealt with a 52nd minute free kick, but Amundsen ended up with time to fire another cross back in from the left. The Black-and-Red were flat-footed, and Alexander Callens had a free run at the ball, nodding it home from seven yards.
Even when United did well, Johnson and NYCFC were up to the task. Felipe created two great chances midway through the second half, but Johnson produced a top-drawer save to deny Odoi-Atsem, while Skundrich’s 71st minute shot ended up clipping the bar and bouncing to safety.
Befitting a game where everything was going wrong, Jesús Medina made it 6-0 moments after subbing in. Tayvon Gray got up the right wing on the counter before cutting the ball back to Medina, whose low shot got through traffic and Hamid in the 74th minute.
The loss sees United (12W-5D-14L, 41 points) fall out of the playoff places, with NYCFC climbing over them. A Red Bulls win earlier today against Columbus means the Black-and-Red, now winless in four, are suddenly in 9th place. There’s no let-up in the schedule for the Black-and-Red, who host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night in another hugely significant match in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“Highlights” will be added when they are made available.
MLS Regular Season – Game 31
New York City FC 6 (Thiago 1; Castellanos 7, 11; Moralez 45; Callens 52; Medina 74)
D.C. United 0
NYCFC (4231): Sean Johnson (C); James Sands, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens (Tayvon Gray 59), Malte Amundsen; Keaton Parks, Alfredo Morales (Gedion Zelalem 71); Thiago Andrade (Talles Magno 71), Maxi Moralez (Jesús Medina 71), Santiago Rodríguez; Valentín Castellanos (Héber 59)
DCU (532): Bill Hamid; Julian Gressel (Griffin Yow 46), Donovan Pines (Chris Odoi-Atsem 46), Steven Birnbaum (C), Tony Alfaro, Joseph Mora; Russell Canouse (Felipe Martins 46), Kevin Paredes (Drew Skundrich 46), Junior Moreno; Nigel Robertha, Ola Kamara (Ramón Ábila 46)
NYCFC – Sands 33
DCU – Canouse 3, Birnbaum 53