Starters: Tyler Miller, Andy Nájar (Jacob Greene 87′), Pedro Santos, Steve Birnbaum (Derrick Williams 50′), Donovan Pines, Russell Canouse, Lewis O’Brien, Mateusz Klich (Chris Durkin 87′), Victor Pálsson, Taxi Fountas (Ted Ku-DiPietro 70′), Christian Benteke
Unused Subs: Alex Bono, Jackson Hopkins, Yamil Asad, Kristian Fletcher, Eric Hurtado
Captain: Steve Birnbaum/Russell Canouse
Starters: George Marks, Nathan Byrne, Harrison Afful (Chris Hegardt 81′), Adilson Malanda, Ashley Westwood, Brandt Bronico (Hamady Diop 90′), Derrick Jones, Enzo Copetti, Karol Świderski, McKinze Gaines, Kerwin Vargas (Justin Meram 64′)
Unused Subs: Kristijan Kahlina, Patrick Agyemang, Brandon Cambridge, Jaylin Lindsey, Andrew Privett, Jan Sobocinski
Captain: Ashley Westwood
First Half: DC United, both teams and fans, came into this match with high expectations. United had just had a perfect road trip and were looking for their first single season three-game MLS winning streak since October 2020. The Crowns of Charlotte FC had other ideas. Charlotte started the match with energy and a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and quite clearly had the better of the play in the early stages of the game. Their press seemed to discombobulate DC, and United found themselves pinned back in their half.
The Crowns were quicker to the ball, and willing to get physical with the Black & Red players. Often when DC defenders did get ahold of the ball, they just cleared the ball upfield or out of bounds. There was little to no linkup play between the back line and the midfield. Still this did have the effect of disrupting Charlotte’s attack. Despite playing a good portion of the opening 30 minutes in DC’s half, the Crowns managed relatively few dangerous chances.
Karol Świderski had the first true chance when he received a long pass in the center of the box. Despite two defenders being right there, Świderski controlled the ball, and took a shot from about twelve yards from goal. Victor Pálsson stepped in between Świderski and the goal, blocking the powerful point-blank shot with his body.
The Crown’s next best chance was when Charlotte’s Kerwin Vargas took a perfect pass in space, and drove at Andy Najar, who had raced back on defense. The winger was able to dribble the ball to the top of the box, create just enough space with a nice move, and curled an attempt from just outside the area that looked destined for the top right corner of the goal. Luckily for United the shot sailed just wide and high of the net.
Charlotte continued to control most of possession, at one point the Crowns had about 75% of the possession; however DC did start to get its footing.
The first opportunity for DC United came in the 27′ when United managed to get behind Charlotte’s back line. Andy Najar found Christian Benteke with a well placed cross. However, Charlotte’s defenders proved up for the challenge. Charlotte player Derrick Jones, who is usually a defensive midfielder, but due to injuries was moved back t Center Back, was particularly keen to defend Benteke. The Belgian Striker was quickly blocked and dispossessed of the ball, and although United tried to find the rebound, their efforts were stymied by Charlotte players that were calm and coordinated in the final third.
Growing into the match, DC United began to create more plays near Charlotte’s box, and one of these led to Derrick Jones’s first mistake. Taxi Fountas took a quick pass from Andy Najar, and made a move to get past the defenders, but was downed in the box by Derrick Jones. At first the foul was not called, and referee Ismir Pekmic let play continue. This did not sit well with home fans, who sold out Audi Field. The Supporters Section was right there, and made their feelings known. How could the penalty not be called, having been awarded for Canouse’s touch of the boots in the game against the Crew?
VAR must have agreed with this sentiment, and the referee did go to the monitor. Pekmic was only there a brief moment before he walked back and pointed to the spot. Taxiarchis Fountas took the ball, and waited for the referee to sort everything out, and then calmly and coolly scored a beautiful shot low and to the side, with just enough zip that despite the goalie guessing right, the ball still hit the back of the net. This was Taxi’s second goal in as many games.
The goal electrified both the team and the fans. There was noticeable improvement in passing and overall performance. Where Charlotte had been winning it seemed like every 50/50 ball, or applying the press with more verve, it was now the Black & Red making the plays.
The first half ended on a weird moment. In extratime, DC had driven the ball into the box for a final shot. Derrick Jones stepped up to disrupt Christian Benteke, and sent the ball out for a corner kick. The final seconds of the four minutes did tick off as the teams set up, and the ref made a few cautions. DC was given the signal to kick, who took a short kick, only to have the referee whistle time on the half.
Team Captain Steve Birnbaum took a few hard knocks during the first half, so after another collision he had to be replaced by Derrick Williams in the 50′. Derrick had just returned to training, but looked solid and ready to play, which was good as the Crowns continued to push DC. United was much calmer against the press, and were able to create a few dangerous breakaways. Lewis O’Brien and Donovan Pines managed to make shots, and though they missed, Charlotte’s nerves began to show.
As that happened, so did the number of fouls. One such foul gave DC a free kick from a similar distance to the one that led to Christian Benteke’s goal the week before. The Black & Red took it a bit different this week, going short first to change the angle, and then long into the crowd. The way was slightly different, but the result was the same. Christian Benteke scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season on a sensational bicycle kick.
The goal was spectacular, and should garner goal of the match consideration.
Charlotte was now desperate, while for the second week in a row DC showed a lot of poise, passing the ball, playing hold up, and going forward whenever the opportunity allowed. DC looked to have gone up by three when Benteke slid a second ball past Charlotte goalkeeper, George Marks, but the goal was correctly ruled offside.
DC did get the third goal a little later when Jacob Greene having come in off the bench for Andy Najar, scored his first MLS goal. It was a great counter attack, where Lewis O’Brien dribbled the ball up the field, crossed the ball back across the goal mouth. Benteke stumbled, and couldn’t collect the ball, but a trailing Greene was there to one time the pass and score.
DC has now scored three goals in a game for the second consecutive match, and now have a positive goal differential.
At the other end of the pitch, Tyler Miller was only required to make one save during the game to preserve his third clean sheet of the season, which all came in April.
So DC United were able to win three consecutive MLS matches for the first time since October 18-28, 2020.
Words from the Gaffer:
“Yeah, Christian has scored a few, throughout his career. He actually scored one against, against me at my Old Trafford, against Man United, as well, which reminds me of. But yeah he’s got the ability to do that.
“I think what it does; it for the game, all though I didn’t think we were in any trouble, or we weren’t concerned, but for our first half, our first thirty minutes, we were very poor. We couldn’t connect passes, we played with a lack of belief I felt in the first thirty minutes. And obviously I think we were lucky to go in one nill up and then the second half I thought we had a lot of control. Even Charlotte had a lot of the possession m, I thought we were always in control. Thought we could win the game by two or three goals. I’m glad we got the win.”
Observations From the Upper Deck:
DC United opened the game on the back foot. They just couldn’t string together three passes
Derrick Jones is in Christian Benteke’s head
The crowd is growing restless
Derrick Jones is a right bastard
I wish Derrick Jones was on United
Christian Benteke picks up a cheap yellow card
If Taxi isn’t awarded a penalty shot, then DC will never get a penalty call
Taxi scores, and the decibel level in the stadium has gone through the roof
There is a discernible increase inAudi’s energy
Taxi is looking like Taxi
Birnbaum is getting beat up
Derrick Williams is playing strong
Love the team celebrating Greene
The energy and enthusiasm of this DC United team is heads and shoulders over last year
Player Ratings (FotMob):
Tyler Miller 8.1
Pedro Santos 7.4
Steve Birnbaum. 6.8
Donovan Pines 8.0
Victor Pálsson 7.9
Andy Najar 7.6
Russell Canouse 7.6
Lewis O’Brien. 7.6
Mateusz Klich 7.5
Taxi Fuentas. 8.4
Christian Benteke 8.3
Derrick Williams 6.6
Ted Ku-DiPietro 6.5
Chris Durkin 6.6
Jacob Greene 7.0
Man of the Match - Victor Pálsson - The Icelander defender has really turned DC United’s defense. He has brought leadership and consistency to the lineup. The reason that Victor Pálsson is the Man of the Match is the veteran defender brought some bite to the Black & Red when Charlotte FC was being overly physical with DC. He was the enforcer the team needed.
Up Next: At FC Cincinnati