“This has to be our turning point,” Coach Hernán Losada said. “This has to be the game where we believe in everything that we’re doing and we start to get the results we deserve.”
United (3-5-0) hadn’t scored multiple goals in a game since the season opener over a month ago, but at Drive Pink Stadium, D.C.’s attack was dangerous from the start. Kamara and Arriola each scored during a six-minute stretch early in the first half to give United an early cushion.
With Miami (2-4-2) playing out of the back and United pressing, Russell Canouse forced a giveaway. Kamara had space inside the penalty box and quickly capitalized with a goal in the 15th minute. Miami’s defense continued to struggle, and soon after, Arriola scored with his left foot from a tight angle.
Arriola, who missed nearly the entire 2020 season with a torn ACL, hadn’t scored for United since August 2019. In the 71st minute, Kamara scored again on a close-range header with an assist from Arriola, giving United three goals in a game for the first time this year.
“We in the locker room were talking prior to the game about: ‘All right, can we get one [goal] early? Can we really hone in on the fact that, if we get a chance early on in this match, we have to put it away?’ ” goalkeeper Bill Hamid said.
After scoring twice in the season-opening win against New York City FC, United managed only three goals in the next six games (five losses and one win). D.C. matched that output in 90 minutes against Miami, even without attacker Edison Flores, the team’s highest-paid player, who is out with a hamstring injury.
The win sends United into the three-week international break on a positive note. The team won’t play again until June 19 (another match against Inter Miami), so United departed Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with the encouraging result and more reassurance as players return from injury.
Hamid, the first-choice goalkeeper, made his first appearance of the season, returning after preseason hernia and calf injuries. His save in the 65th minute — on Nicolás Figal’s shot off a corner kick — kept Miami from climbing within a goal. Hamid notched two more saves during stoppage time to preserve the clean sheet.
“To be honest, I felt very comfortable,” Hamid said, adding that his last competitive match was in this stadium for a U.S. men’s national team game against El Salvador in December. “Walking out of the tunnel, the locker room, it all felt kind of normal because it was the last game that I played. We were in the same locker room. I warmed up in the same area. It kind of was just full circle.”
Losada’s first season in D.C. has been hampered by injuries. As some players returned to the lineup, the team lost a pair of starters — Flores and midfielder Drew Skundrich, who started three straight games after beginning the season with second-division Loudoun United. In all, United’s lineup Saturday included six changes from its previous game, a loss against the Philadelphia Union last weekend.
The club expects Flores to be out until July, leaving D.C. in search of goals from elsewhere. With Kamara starting in Flores’s place against Inter Miami, United’s performance offered promise that it can weather the absence.
Kevin Paredes, an 18-year-old midfielder, started for the first time this season. Before Kamara’s opening goal, Paredes had United’s best chance in the 10th minute, but his shot flew over the goal. Later in the first half, Adrien Pérez missed another promising scoring opportunity. (Both of those could-have-been goals would have given Julian Gressel an assist.)
Losada said he would give the game a 9 out of 10 rating. “And why 9 and not a 10?” he said. “Because we scored three goals out of eight, nine, 10 big opportunities to score.”
Forward Yordy Reyna, who had dealt with a hamstring injury, made his 2021 debut as a substitute in the 80th minute. Defender Donovan Pines, a homegrown player, also started for the first time this season.
Entering this game, United had lost all three of its away games this season. Miami, which played its expansion season in 2020, had struggled at home (two losses and a draw coming in), and with a full stadium of fans for the first time in club history because of loosened coronavirus restrictions, that trouble continued. Given that opportunity, United finally showed a promising showcase of this new system.
“It’s all about the system that we’re trying to play in and the high-pressing that we’re trying to do,” Arriola said. “Obviously, when you’re able to high-press and score goals off of it, it gives you all the confidence in the world and the belief in the coach, in the system, in the players, in your teammates.”
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