D.C. United returned home from a massively successful road trip to win 3-0 over Charlotte FC in front of a crowd of 19,215.
Charlotte put the pressure on D.C. from the whistle, controlling possession and putting the Black-and-Red on the backfoot. When Andy Najar attempted to turn the tide back in D.C.’s favor, a collision with Kerwin Vargas saw him booked with a yellow in the 9′.
Despite being five deep on the back line, and the Black-and-Red struggled to hold off Charlotte and get onto the ball, with Charlotte claiming about 75% of the possession for the first 15 minutes. Although they held the majority of possession, Charlotte didn’t manage to create any substantial chances, at least at first.
After testing D.C.’s defenses early on, Charlotte finally found a way through on the counter. Victor Pálsson stepped up to save the Black-and-Red in the 19′ with a block that denied Karol Świderski in the center of the box.
Świderski wasn’t giving up. In the 22′, he found a waiting Vargas in the box, who fired a rocket that had Audi Field holding its collective breath. Fortunately, his shot sailed over the crossbar.
D.C. had a whiff of hope in the 27′ when they managed to get behind Charlotte’s back line. Najar found Christian Benteke with a cross. However, traffic proved too much. Benteke was quickly dispossessed, and although the Black-and-Red tried to find a chance for a rebound, they were stymied by Charlotte players that seemingly multiplied in the final third.
In the 31′, Taxi Fountas was downed in the box by Derrick Jones. Despite a suspected foul, referee Ismir Pekmic let play continue as the sound of outrage echoed through the stadium. The Black-and-Red were finally awarded the penalty, and Fountas stepped up to convert, firing a shot past George Marks to open the scoring.
Fountas’ goal electrified the stadium and gave the Black-and-Red a much-needed lift. Connections noticeably improved with a goal locked in and D.C. headed into the half with a lead despite the tenuous start.
Captain Steve Birnbaum took a few hard knocks during the first 45′ that saw him replaced by Derrick Williams in the 50′. Birnbaum regularly logs 90′ with ease. Of his status, Wayne Rooney said, “he took a bang on his hip. So he was really struggling and I said to him, I know Steve would play on and try and play on, but I said to him at halftime, ‘don’t try and be a hero if you’re really struggling’…We will monitor over the next few days and hopefully he’ll be okay for next week.”
Back in action in the second half, the Black-and-Red continued to take pressure from Charlotte, being pushed back into their defensive half. Although D.C. was able to create a few breakaways, they came to naught, with Charlotte outpacing the Black-and-Red. Both Donovan Pines and Lewis O’Brien managed chances in the 54′, but missed their opportunities.
Charlotte took advantage of width, and McKinzie Gaines, in particular, was a menace to D.C., weaving his way through traffic to challenge D.C. repeatedly. But, the Black-and-Red managed to regain the front foot a bit as the second half wore on, a zippy Charlotte flagging just enough to allow an opening for the home side,
In the 69′ D.C. United was able to mount a counter-attack that saw Andy Najar speeding down the wing. He outpaced Charlotte and found a waiting Taxi Fountas in front of the goal. Fountas took a touch, but the shot went wide, much to the chagrin of every Black-and-Red supporter. The game remained chippy with 22 total fouls by the 70′, Charlotte and D.C. United going toe-to-toe in search of the advantage.
Christan Benteke doubled D.C.’s lead in the 75′ with a gravity-defying bicycle kick to catch out George Marks and propel Charlotte into desperation mode. What started out as a tepid match for the Black-and-Red turned into a tenacious second half; a switch flipped.
Not satisfied with merely one goal, Benteke found the back of the net again with a clinical finish in the 84′. Sadly, the flag was up, dashing hopes of a brace for Benteke to round out the match. When asked about the play, he told The District Press, “It was just instinct. I think a lot of strikers play with instinct. The moment you think it becomes harder for you to do this kind of gesture…I was just hoping to have a good contact. Like I said, just hit the target.”
The Black-and-Red went on the offense, playing for a third goal and pulling out all the stops. In the end, it was Jacob Greene, a homegrown player, who tied a bow on the match, capturing a rebound to score the final goal in stoppage time. A smiling Greene told The District Press, “I saw Lewis [O’Brien] with the ball out on the left side. I just saw a lot of space to start running. It was a high moment. It was just a fun, fun moment.” Greene’s goal was met by the entire team joining him to celebrate, the joy palpable.
D.C. United heads back out on the road to face FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium on May 6 at 7:30 pm ET.
MLS Regular Season – Game 10
D.C. United: 3 Fountas 34′ (penalty), Benteke 75′, Greene 90′ + 5′
Charlotte FC: 0
D.C. United: 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
Charlotte FC: 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′)
D.C. United: Najar 9′, Benteke 43′
Charlotte FC: Jones 63′, Gaines 74′
Featured image courtesy of D.C. United and Hannah Wagner.