April 22, 2021

D.C. United Game 12 Recap: United loses game, Eddie Johnson at New England

Any worries about how D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was going to handle playing the trio of Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola, and Chris Rolfe were answered in emphatic and distasteful fashion Saturday night, as United lost at the New England Revolution, 2-1. Johnson started up front, with Espindola on the bench and Rolfe unavailable, but was sent off late in the game after he shoved Kelyn Rowe from behind than perhaps thought about kicking out at the fallen Revs player.

That was enough for head referee Juan Guzman to give Johnson a straight red, even though the United forward appeared to think better of his action before actually making any contact (see the incident here). United had tied the game earlier in the second half, as a nice cross from the left by Cristian Fernandez was met by leading scorer Espindola for his sixth goal of the year. But Diego Fagundez scored 4 minutes later to decide the match.

Espindola, who entered the match on the hour, just shortly after Patrick Mullins gave New England (7-3-2, 23 points, 1st MLS East) the lead, got United level but that tie disappeared in the 77th minute. New England took the lead back after United substitute midfielder Lewis Neal gave the ball away in the defensive third. New England quickly pounced on the good fortune, as Teal Bunbury sent the ball across the United goal, with D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid diving out for it.

Hamid missed, and Fagundez was open in the area to Hamid’s right. Before Hamid could fully recover, Fagundez beat him to make it 2-1. United had a great chance to equalize very late on down a man, but Fernandez’s header from a corner kick was saved off the goal line by Steve Neumann, who was at the post to goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s right and deflected it away with his body.

Mullins’ goal gave the Revs the 1-0 lead in the 55th minute, off a Fagundez assist and shove. Fagundez was on the ball and ran into the United penalty area unimpeded, before D.C. center back Jeff Parke stepped to challenge him. Fagundez lost the ball and felled Parke with a shoulder and elbow barge. The ball came to Mullins, who then benefited from Fagundez getting tangled up with right back Chris Korb (causing Korb to fall). Mullins beat Hamid from a tight angle at Hamid’s right.

Five minutes after the Fagundez goal, Johnson was sent off for what was officially termed a “serious foul.” Johnson had taken a shove in the back from another Revs player, stayed on his feet, then collided into the back of Rowe, sending him to the turf. A foul was probably warranted on Johnson for that. As Rowe went down, however, Johnson appeared to at least think about kicking Rowe with his right boot, but it was a quarter-hearted attempt at best that didn’t appear to make contact.

Guzman, about 10 yards up field (toward the center line) from the incident, which happened in the United defensive third, wasted no time reaching into his back pocket for a red card to send off Johnson. If the red card was for the shove, it was a brutal overreaction. If Guzman thought Johnson kicked out at Rowe, that might initiate the red, but replays suggested even that was perhaps harsh.

Guzman was also in the middle for United’s 1-1 draw at Columbus in which Johnson was fouled in a breakaway situation by Giancarlo Gonzalez. Guzman, however, failed to give Gonzalez a red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, somehow only cautioning the Crew player instead.

Regardless, Johnson will now be suspended for United’s next match, at home to Sporting Kansas City on May 31. Given how well the tandem of Espindola and Chris Rolfe performed in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston, and with no mid-week game coming this time, there shouldn’t be much doubt who starts up top for United against SKC, who played a 2-2 tie with Toronto FC Friday night and are tied with United on 18 points for second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, pending Houston’s result at San Jose Sunday.

Johnson now has more suspensions (two) than goals (one), since he missed the Houston game due to incident in a draw with Montreal on May 17. Given the facts of what transpired Saturday, it’s unlikely Johnson would be banned for additional games upon additional review by the league. The red card carries with it an automatic one-game suspension and $250 fine, and may not be appealed (according to league rules, cards may only be appealed in cases of mistaken identity).

Due to yellow cards tonight, midfielders Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud would be suspended for their next caution. Next Saturday’s match at RFK Stadium kicks off at 7 p.m.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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