Nonetheless, United accomplished its secondary mission, surviving several scares before happily accepting a 0-0 draw in front of a sellout crowd of 25,060 at TQL Stadium.
“The effort of the whole group was huge,” Coach Hernán Losada said. “I cannot be more proud of the fighting spirit of this team. When you see the circumstances today, taking a point on the road 11 against nine, it’s fantastic.”
In extending its unbeaten streak to three, D.C. (6-7-3) recorded its second consecutive shutout and sixth overall. Cincinnati (3-7-5) has yet to win in six matches at the new venue.
“Once we went down to 10 men, it was, ‘All right, let’s get a point on the road,’ ” captain Steven Birnbaum said. “Guys stayed tuned in the whole time and knew what the game needed at that point.”
The match did, though, leave an already depleted team without two suspended players for Wednesday’s trip to Columbus.
“I think I am going to have to put the cleats on and be on the bench,” Losada said.
Before the red cards, United continued its season-long adjustment to the absence of primary players. While Paul Arriola and Donovan Pines remain on U.S. national team duty at the Concacaf Gold Cup, Brendan Hines-Ike, Adrien Perez, Edison Flores and Nigel Robertha are battling long-term injuries.
Russell Canouse (ankle) and Ola Kamara are aiming to return soon. Kamara, who has scored a team-high seven goals, has been in the concussion protocol, but the organization never included him on the injury report. He might return Wednesday.
With Robertha and Kamara unavailable, Yordy Reyna, a creative attacker, filled the void at center forward and made his first start of the year.
United started two teenagers who have played regularly this year and have begun attracting interest from European clubs. Kevin Paredes, an 18-year-old homegrown attacker, was lively and dangerous on the wings. Nyeman, a 17-year-old homegrown midfielder, thought he had scored his first career goal in the fourth minute when he placed a 12-yard header over goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.
After the celebration, however, video review nullified it. In the buildup, Reyna had been slightly offside. Replay was not necessary in the 25th minute, when Reyna was ruled offside as he shot past Vermeer.
Otherwise, the first half was mostly quiet. Bill Hamid made a reflex save on Nick Hagglund’s close-in header off a corner kick.
After Julian Gressel tested Vermeer with a free kick from the edge of the penalty area, United went a man down in the 52nd minute. Nyeman misplayed the ball along the sideline near midfield and saw no choice but to drag down Brazilian forward Brenner from behind 40 yards from the net.
“We [can’t] forget Moses is 17,” Losada said. “It’s part of the process that they are going to make mistakes.”
Cincinnati buzzed with activity but not a lot of clear chances. Hamid thwarted Ronald Matarrita’s bid, and Joe Gyau had a good look on a header in the box.
United’s priority was to defend, but it also looked to counter. Reyna forced Vermeer into a save on an angled effort.
Late in the match, with the onus on Cincinnati to claim three points at home, United faced heavy pressure. In stoppage time, Mora was ejected for a foul outside the box, deepening D.C.’s despair. But after Brandon Vázquez’s stab from close range spun wide, United was able to exhale.
“I am very happy with the point,” Losada said.
Note: United will hire Patrick Ouckama as its academy director, people familiar with the situation said. Ouckama, who has worked in New England’s youth system for four years, will succeed Dave Sanford, who left the club this past week after 12 years in various roles.
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