As time melted away, United howled for penalty kicks, players tussled, and some fans tossed objects onto the field. Amid the madness, the visitors weathered United’s squalls to remain unbeaten (2-0-3).
“If there is one way to lose, this is the way,” United Coach Hernán Losada said. “The way where you dominate the whole game, the way the opponent doesn’t know what else to do [but] to neutralize the game, to waste time, to park the bus. They didn’t want to play after they scored the goal.”
The goal came so early, in the seventh minute, that United (2-0-4) spent most of the night trying to unlock Orlando’s defense and avoid getting frustrated with both those tactics and its own shortfalls.
D.C. was shut out for the second time and has not scored more than once in a match since the season opener last month. It has scored the first goal just once.
“We deserved to, at the minimum, get a tie out of that game,” winger Paul Arriola said. “The frustrating part is conceding early and conceding first.”
Although he grumbled about Orlando’s tactics, Losada also said: “It’s legitimate. I don’t have any problem with that, but I wouldn’t want to win a game this way. ... If there was a team who played to win, it was D.C. United.”
United had a 10-2 advantage on corner kicks and 13-6 on shots but just one was on target.
With United playing on two days’ rest after Thursday’s win over Chicago, Losada stuck with what worked in the attack, pairing Edison Flores and Adrien Pérez and using Drew Skundrich in a supporting role.
The back line and defensive midfield remained the same as well, but there were changes at wing back: On the left, Joseph Mora returned from a one-game injury absence, and on the right, Arriola replaced Julian Gressel for his first start since the 2019 playoffs.
For the first time, United had enough healthy players for the maximum nine available substitutes. The return of Russell Canouse and Griffin Yow filled out the bench.
Just as United had scored in the seventh minute Thursday against the Fire, D.C. conceded in the seventh Sunday.
Mauricio Pereyra exploited a channel, collecting Kyle Smith’s long ball in the penalty area. Pereyra knocked the ball to Tesho Akindele, who returned it with one touch. Pereyra held off Skundrich and slid an 11-yard shot past Jon Kempin for his first goal of the year.
As the half unfolded, United turned up the pressure. Pérez’s clever footwork threatened to unlock the resistance, and Flores’s wicked strike tested goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, his Peruvian World Cup teammate.
United put itself in good positions, but Smith cleared Pérez’s shot from the six-yard box, and Orlando defenders blocked multiple threats.
The start of the second half brought change: Gressel replaced defensive midfielder Moses Nyeman and lined up at right wing back, bumping Arriola into the middle.
United buzzed with activity, but Orlando was resolute under pressure. With the visitors not budging, Losada took the unusual step of making three substitutions: Felipe Martins, Kevin Paredes and Ola Kamara entered for Arriola, Pérez and Júnior Moreno. In his second game back from injury, Arriola was limited to about 60 minutes.
In the 72nd minute, Gallese did well to turn aside Gressel’s free kick as Kamara failed to redirect but did distract. Having weathered the wave, Orlando slowed the pace and burned time by embellishing injuries and restarting the game slowly.
Losada’s last move was adding forward Yamil Asad in the 78th minute. United’s play grew urgent, but connections were off and opportunities fleeting. Orlando managed the match perfectly.
Frustration spilled over in the dying moments, both on the field and in the stands.
Paredes tried drawing a penalty kick, but there wasn’t enough contact to warrant a call.
“What we need to improve, of course, is finding ways against these types of opponents to still create danger,” Losada said. “We’re going to keep improving and finding ways to score goals. That’s definitely a weak point. … Sooner or later, you are going to score goals.”
Notes: Forward Erik Sorga and defender Chris Odoi-Atsem were placed on the MLS injury list, requiring them to sit out at least six matches. Both moves were retroactive, leaving Sorga eligible to return June 23 and Odoi-Atsem on June 27. ...
Forward Yordy Reyna will return from the injury list next Sunday when United hosts the Philadelphia Union (2-2-2) in the last of three consecutive home matches. ...
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid seems likely to make his season debut against Philadelphia.
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