Home may be where the heart is, but suddenly D.C. United can’t find any victories there.
For the third match in a row the red and black left Audi Field without a win, and this time the result was an embarrassing 2-0 setback to lowly New York City FC (1-1-5) on Easter Sunday.
United (4-2-2) has not won at home in more than a month and is 2-2-1 this year at Audi Field after posting a mark of 12-2-1 there in 2018. United lost 4-0 to Los Angeles FC in D.C. on April 6 and tied Montreal 0-0 three days later at Audi Field.
“We have to take care of the ball, plain and simple,” starting defender Steve Birnbaum said after Sunday’s loss. “I think we tried to go too fast today. Once we got in their half (of the field) I felt we tried to go with the first option. I felt we were a little too antsy in that way. It was not good enough.”
“It was a great night for them, a terrible night for us,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “They were just (better) in all of the areas, all the facets of the game. They were just better tonight.”
How concerned is Olsen about the last three home matches?
“Of course, we want to win these games at home. We want to reward our fans,” Olsen said. “Los Angeles came in here and beat us pretty handily. The Montreal game was a little bit of (United) fatigue.”
“This was a (New York) team that I thought played an entire 90 minutes at a high level and was desperate for a win. So yeah, I am concerned,” he added. “But each game is a different dynamic. We are dealing with some (players) out. You miss one or two and sometimes you are just a bit disjointed out there. It is not clicking as well as you would like. We are going through that right now.”
After starting four homegrown players in its previous match, United started Chris Durkin for the second match in a row while Clifton, Virginia, product Griffin Yow, 16, made his MLS off the bench in the closing minutes.
“I love the kid,” Olsen said of Yow. “He has a bright future. Throw him a bone and get him in there.”
Alexandru Mitrita of Romania scored in the 48th minute for New York City FC (1-1-5) and Heber Araujo dos Santos of Brazil had his first career goal at the 56-minute mark of the second half as the visitors won for the first time this season.
United defender/midfielder Durkin, 21, who grew up north of Richmond, was in the starting lineup Sunday after he scored his first MLS goal in the previous game at Colorado on April 13.
Durkin had several touches early in the first half and drew attention from New York City FC players Heber and Mitrita, who hurt his leg midway through the first half but stayed in the game. United star Wayne Rooney, moments earlier, missed on a header against goalie Sean Johnson as the game remained scoreless at the 22-minute mark.
United goalie Bill Hamid made a nice save at the 32-minute mark but three minutes later the visitors finally broke through, as Mitrita scored his second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.
Durkin was issued a yellow card late in the first half when he collided with a player for New York City FC. A few minutes later Leonardo Jara of United was called for a yellow card but Max Moralez missed a penalty kick as United trailed 1-0 at halftime.
D.C. United plays Wednesday at Columbus (4-2-1) and April 28 at Minnesota (3-3-1) before returning to Audi Field to host Columbus on May 4.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Olsen said. “We have some injuries; we have to get through this period. Two tough places to go.”
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