Starters: Kristijan Kahlina, Jere Uronen, Nathan Byrne, Adilson Malanda, Ashley Westwood, Brecht Dejaegere (Justin Meram 65'), Brandt Bronico (Scott Arfield 65'), Ben Bender (Kamil Jozwiak 78'), Andrew Privett, Enzo Copetti (Patrick Agyemang 78'), Karol Swiderski (Kerwin Vargas 86')
Unused Subs: George Marks, Derrick Jones, Jaylin Lindsey, Harrison Afful
Starter: Alex Bono, Ruan (Andy Najar 84'), Brendan Hines-Ike, Donovan Pines, Eric Davis, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, Gabriel Pirani (Ted Ku-DiPietro 74'), Mateusz Klich, José Fajardo (Nigel Robertha 74'), Christian Benteke
Unused Subs: Luis Zamudio, Pedro Santos, Hayden Sargis, Yamil Asad, Cristian Dájome, Erik Hurtado
Charlotte FC got off to a storming start, putting DC onto the back foot, but there were counter attack opportunities, new comer José Fajardo had a wide open look that he failed to put on goal. Then just four minutes into the match, there was a crazy scramble inside the six-yard box that set the tone for the match. The United defenders, who had a makeshift character kept the Crowns from ever getting a clean shot on goal. Multiple Charlotte players got swings at the bouncing ball in the scrum before it was finally fired wide into the side netting.
United would get another break away on a counter attack, but Fajardo’s shot ended up being a tame affair right at the goalkeeper.
A few minutes later, a VAR review for a penalty was called for after a ball went off Donovan Pines’ hand. Charlotte forward Karol Swiderski had cut a cross back for Brandt Bronico near the penalty spot. Bronico’s shot deflected off Pines’ foot as he went to ground, unfortunately it deflected up off his chest and then his hand. It wrong-footed Alex Bono, but the keeper managed to dive and get a hand to it, tipping it off the goalpost. United fans had to think the call was going to be made to award the penalty, but after a quick review, referee Jon Freemon elected not to point to the spot, much to the relief of the Black & Red and their supporters.
The game devolved into a high-energy end-to-end affair with both teams creating multiple chances, but the best were made by Charlotte. Enzo Copetti was especially dangerous for the Crowns; at one point he latched onto a ball in behind United’s defenders, but Donovan Pines recovered and used his large frame to battle the forward, so he couldn’t get his shot off because of the duress. Then a few minutes later, Charlotte midfielder Bronico was gifted the best chance of the first half after a shot took a heavy deflection and landed straight at his feet with just the keeper to beat. Fortunately, Bronico couldn’t get the ball out from underneath his feet and Bono tackled the ball away.
There was one more flurry of attempts that DC United had to survive in the closing moments of the first half. Bronico made a great pass to Copetti, who cut it back for Brecht Dejaegere, but the shot was well blocked by Hines-Ike, then just before halftime, Dejaegere headed a Nathan Byrne cross back to Copetti, but Pines cleared it away for one of his fifteen clearances.
After 45 minutes the teams were tied at 0-0, and United had to feel relieved.
The second half started much slower than the frenetic pace of the first. Charlotte FC again had the majority of possession and again got into promising positions, but none were as good as those in the first half. Charlotte players grew noticeably frustrated as they couldn’t break the Black & Red’s defense.
Coming out on the field for the second half DC United displayed a noticeable shift in their approach. They demonstrated a more composed and purposeful style of play as the game wore on. United continued their utilization of Christian Benteke as the focus of attack, a role he executed with unparalleled finesse. Benteke’s ability to hold up the ball and distribute it intelligently allowed DC United to build a number of attacking opportunities.
Gabriel Pirani, Mateusz Klich, and José Fajardo played off Benteke with intelligent runs that exploited the spaces created by his presence. This dynamic movement forced the Charlotte FC defense to constantly readjust, creating opportunities for DC United to exploit, unfortunately in the final third they just couldn’t make the chances count. Benteke had one really strong left-footed shot , but it went off goalie Kahlina’s head.
Wayne Rooney made two subs in the 74th minute with Nigel Robertha and Ted Ku-DePietro entering the match for Gabriel Pirani and José Fajardo. Still, the character of the game remained a lot of possession by the Crowns broken up by counter attacks by the Black & Red, with half chances for both teams.
The game always seemed destined to end in a draw, with both teams never able to take advantage of the other. The result left both sides with a point and alive in the ongoing race for the final playoff spots.
Notes From the couch :
Charlotte has a really great crowd for the Fourth
Interesting lineup changes
Charlotte is all over DC
Heart-in-throat moment, ball bouncing all around in front of DC’s goal
Thought they scored for a second the way the crowd cheered
Pines is playing well
Damn, they are going to award a penalty for a handball
The ref didn’t change his mind, SHOCKED
Hines-Ike is challenging everything
Ball is going up and down the field as both teams waste no time getting it up the field
More attempts, Charlotte is pinning DC back
Tied at the half
DC United has to feel relieved at the half
Second half is much slower than the first
Benteke’s shot stopped by the keeper’s head
Justin Meram coming in, always worried when United plays him
Nigel Robertha and Ted Ku-DePietro entered the match
Benteke found a decent chance on the back post
Andy Najar brought on
Benteke has to stop heading directly at the goalie
Russell Canouse shot from the left side of the box, but blocked
Player Ratings (FotMob):
Alex Bono 7.7
Brendan Hines-Ike 7.3
Donovan Pines 8.2
Eric Davis 8.0
Russell Canouse 7.1
Chris Durkin 6.9
Mateusz Klich 7.0
Gabriel Pirani 6.1
José Fajardo 6.4
Christian Benteke 7.7
Ted Ku-DiPietro 6.5
Nigel Robertha 6.0
Andy Najar N/A
Man of the Match: Donovan Pines
Donovan Pines returned to the starting lineup for the first time since August 3rd against the Philadelphia Union to lead the Black & Red with 15 clearances, and he shut down Enzo Copetti.
Next Match: DC United returns home to Audi Field to take on Atlanta United on Wednesday September 20 at 7:30 pm ET.
Written by: RJ Rolsen