DC United use "embarrassing" memory of March blowout as fuel for NYCFC win

WASHINGTON – After Lloyd Sam scored to help D.C. United complete a 2-1 home victory over New York City FC on Saturday afternoon, the winger admitted that last month’s blowout loss to NYCFC had lingered on everyone’s mind.

“You always remember that,” said Sam, who scored an opportunistic 53rd-minute opener as D.C. avenged a 4-0 loss at Yankee Stadium on March 12. “When it’s so soon like that, 4-0, it’s a bit embarrassing.”

Saturday’s affair didn’t have the same hard edge for United that next week’s Atlantic Cup rivalry clash with the New York Red Bulls likely will. But coach Ben Olsen’s side produced a much cagier, measured effort against a New York City side that had arguably outplayed all of their opponents in their first four matches, including an unlucky 1-0 loss at Orlando in the season opener.

“We knew that they would be tough, that they would be physical, and that they would put a lot of pressure on us,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “I think we were willing to be passive, especially in the first half, the way we went into the game. The way we went into the game wasn’t the right way, and at the end, we get punished.”

City dominated possession as D.C. took a posture more common of a visiting team. But aside from a 20-minute stretch to close the first half, NYCFC failed to impose their will.

After some halftime defensive adjustments that dared the New Yorkers to play wide, Sam took advantage of a glaring defensive miscue to hit his first goal of the season. Luciano Acosta was rewarded for a brilliant run with his second goal of the year, and United avenged their worst loss since a 5-0 defeat at Columbus to close the 2015 season.

“It was pretty fresh in our minds,” Olsen said. “These guys are motivated, I don’t think they needed any extra motivation. But it’s a fun team to play against.”

For Sam, no stranger to big matches against New York City from his days with the Red Bulls, it was about channeling those memories.

“Playing them still feels like a big rivalry to me,” Sam said. “So yeah, whenever you play a team and get beat like that and embarrassed a bit, you always remember it. So it gives you a little bit extra.”