An unusual penalty kick miss by Lamar Neagle and a questionable call contributed to D.C. United’s 1-0 loss Saturday to the Philadelphia Union.
United was down 1-0 in the second half when defender Taylor Kemp’s shot ricocheted off the Union’s Oguchi Onyewu’s arm. Referee Sorin Stoica awarded midfielder Lamar Neagle the penalty kick.
Neagle had successfully converted a penalty kick into United’s 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps a month ago. Neagle lined up to take the kick against the Union hoping for the same result, but was unable to make it past goalkeeper Andre Blake.
“It’s just frustrating for me,” Neagle said. “I got indecisive and then it ended up an easy PK for [Blake].”
United brought on two key players in the second half: Patrick Nyarko and Deshorn Brown. But it just wasn’t enough.
And the penalty kick block wasn’t the only celebratory event for Blake. Throughout the game, he made four saves and grabbed three United crosses. Blake’s stamina proved strong as he denied several of United’s shots in a stoppage time rapid fire. Blake now has six shutouts in 16 games this season–a personal season record.
“He is one of the goalkeepers in the league, like [Hamid], who is capable of saving your team points,” coach Ben Olsen said.
United and the Union started the game a little sluggish. The sides combined for just six shots in the first half.
“The first half was a little lethargic from us, and in some ways, from both teams,” Olsen said. “We created a penalty kick, a bunch of looks and services in the second half.”
A wide-open volley from midfielder Fabrice “Fafa” Picault would eventually determine the outcome of the match.
Philadelphia acquired Picault at the start of the 2017 season, and although he didn’t see many minutes in the first half of the season, he has now scored in four of the last seven matches. His game-winning goal against United finally snapped the Union’s three-game losing skid.
“As long as we are winning I am happy,” Picault said of his recent string of personal performances. “I just have to keep [scoring]. That is what I have been doing over the years and it’s being shown over here in MLS.”
In the 75th minute, referee Stoica made the most puzzling move of the match, presenting United forward Luciano Acosta with a straight red card after an interaction with the Union defender Haris Medunjanin.
Medunjanin defended Acosta, leading Stoica to overturn the call and retract the card.
“I have a lot of respect for that,” Olsen said. “I think he is a classy player and a classy human being.”
United has yet to find consistency this season. With the Gold Cup break just a few weeks away, United will have time to regroup and regain injured players before heading into the second half of the season.
United’s next match is the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in New England on Wednesday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m. After that, United has just two more MLS matches against Montreal and Dallas to pick up points before the break.
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