But with a wicked strike from 25 yards, Erik Sorga flipped United’s fortunes, scoring his first MLS goal for a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
“I was very happy,” the 21-year-old forward said. “This was good for the team because we finally won.”
Sorga, a prolific scorer in the low-level Estonian league, had appeared in only three of the previous eight matches, showing some glimpses to warrant extended playing time. On Wednesday, as United (2-4-3) seemed content with a point on the road, Sorga headed down a clearance, took one touch and lashed a right-footed shot that deflected off a defender and past goalkeeper Ryan Meara.
With it, United ended a six-game winless streak and earned its first victory since before the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the league to shut down. It was also D.C.’s first triumph over the Red Bulls in four years and first win here since the 2012 playoffs.
“2020 has been a really tough year for us,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who started in place of Bill Hamid (personal reasons) for the second game. “All we can do is continue to fight, and to get a win like this on the road is a great spark for us.”
The victory came on the day United announced starting midfielder Felipe Martins will miss the rest of the season with a right ACL injury — the latest blow to a bruised roster. On Monday, midfielder Edison Flores underwent surgery for a facial fracture; he will miss four to six weeks.
Captain Steven Birnbaum remained out with an undisclosed injury, while Russell Canouse continued his rehabilitation from a strained hamstring.
“It would have been an easy game to throw in the towel,” Coach Ben Olsen said, “and these guys showed a lot of resiliency.”
Seitz and the defensive crew, boosted by Frédéric Brillant’s return from injury, registered the team’s second shutout of the season. Olsen said Hamid “should be good from here on out,” beginning Sunday against New York City FC at Audi Field.
United’s attack sputtered much of the night. New York’s Tom Barlow hit the post in the first half and D.C. needed 32 minutes to produce a shot.
United has not scored in the first half since last Sept. 22 against Seattle.
United’s Ola Kamara should have scored on a free run seven minutes into the second half, set up by Yamil Asad. But defender Sean Nealis hustled back in time to deflect the shot.
For the most part, the second half was a bore. The Red Bulls were more ambitious but lacked bite in the final third of the field. United withstood pressure.
Olsen did not make changes until the last 20 minutes. As six minutes of stoppage time began, Sorga and Griffin Yow, 17, were the last of four players to enter.
“We thought Erik and Griff could give us a little energy; the game needed that, even for a couple minutes,” Olsen said. “There are a lot of games here for both teams, and teams are going to start to get fatigued in the end. And if you can pop in the right sub every now and then, it can make the difference.”
Sorga’s celebration was tempered by the video assistant referee, who apparently was checking whether two United players inside the box had interfered with Meara’s vision. The goal stood, and United players swarmed Sorga again.
“It was a gutsy performance,” Olsen said. “I am really proud of them.”
Notes: United will receive $50,000 in general allocation money from Inter Miami for the discovery rights to Argentine star Gonzalo Higuain, people close to the situation said. Higuain, whose brother Federico is a D.C. player/assistant coach, left Italian power Juventus last week.
United expressed interest in him in the spring, but when it declined to make a major offer, Miami stepped to the forefront. A deal is in the works, the Miami Herald reported.
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