DC United rallies behind Taxi Fountas to claim Miami tie

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Chad Ashton took heat last week for bailing out the US Open Cup to better position DC United for three regular-season games in quick succession. The first of those games – and the first chance to judge that decision – came on a stormy Saturday night against Inter Miami.

Near full strength, United showed alarming shortcomings as they conceded two goals in the first half. But with Taxi Fountas in the lead, the visitors rallied for a 2-2 draw in a game that started 69 minutes behind due to a heavy thunderstorm.

A week after an excellent defensive performance against Houston, United (4-5-1) caused leaks by conceding goals 14 minutes apart. Fountas then scored before intermission with his fifth goal in five appearances since joining the club from Rapid Vienna, and substitute Ola Kamara equalized in the 74th minute on a streak orchestrated by the skillful Greek striker.

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The game, before a reported 13,317 at DRV PNK Stadium, fell four days after Ashton rested nearly all of his regulars and fielded a largely young side for a 3-0 Open Cup loss to rivals New York Red Bulls at Audi Field. His approach did not sit well with fans and contributed to an early exit from the 108-year-old tournament, which United last won in 2013.

Ashton attributed the wear and tear from last weekend’s regular season game against Houston to its regulars and the approaching schedule, which also includes home games against defending champions New York City FC on Wednesday and Toronto FC on Saturday. next.

Once the storm passed, United used their full-backs to create two early chances against Drake Callender. Bill Hamid outmaneuvered Miami’s first real threat, protecting the near corner with a diving save on offer from Robert Taylor.

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Miami took the lead in the 31st minute. Christopher McVey beat three players in tight space and provided Leo Campana just inside the box. After a one-touch pass to Ariel Lassiter, Campana made a run close to the post. He redirected Lassiter’s cross inside the penalty area and beat Hamid in the near corner for his team-leading sixth goal, which ended Miami’s goalless streak at 236 minutes.

United’s problems worsened just before half-time when they conceded from a free-kick – their biggest defensive problem this season. Jean Mota served a corner at the edge of the penalty area, where Damion Lowe beat Michael Estrada and Donovan Pines to the header.

United pulled one back deep in first-half stoppage time. Estrada’s clever touch redirected Julian Gressel’s cross towards Fountas for a one-timer from 10 yards between two defenders.

An open second half fueled DC’s optimism. Fountas took over space and delivered two dangerous crosses.

The equalizer was a product of Fountas’ genius. He separated two defenders near the touchline before feeding Russell Canouse, whose one-stop cross linked up with Kamara for a close-range finish in the middle of a crowd for his fifth goal.

Hamid made a fine save on Campana and United ended the game with 10 players after substitute Chris Durkin received a second yellow card at the start of six minutes of stoppage time.

The draw extended United’s unbeaten record to 3-0-1 against Miami (3-6-2), which entered the league in 2020.

Here’s what else to know about United’s draw:

Hamid returned to the lineup after recovering from a lower leg cut he suffered last weekend against Houston. Rafael Romo, Hamid’s substitute against Dynamo and starter in the Open Cup game, was the substitute, supplanting Jon Kempin (two starts) at the third rope.

Estrada received his fifth tenure as a striker, chosen ahead of Kamara (five tenures). Rookie Sofiane Djeffal was in the lineup for the fifth time, edging out Durkin, who started in the Open Cup.

Kamara and Durkin came on in the 63rd minute.

Forward Nigel Robertha returned to active duty as a substitute after missing two games with a concussion.

United made their second regular-season visit to Fort Lauderdale since Inter Miami launched in 2020. They won here last May, 3-0, thanks to two goals from Kamara. (He also won a 2022 pre-season game at DRV PNK Stadium.)

United, however, have been playing there for a long time, if not at this stadium. From 1998 to the 2001 season, the Miami Fusion was a member of MLS, based at Lockhart Stadium. In addition to regular season matches and the playoffs, United won the 1998 Inter-American Cup here, beating Brazilian Vasco da Gama in the second leg, 2-0, after a 1-0 defeat at RFK Stadium.

When Inter Miami formed, a new, larger venue was built on the same footprint. In the long term, Inter have been granted permission to build a mixed-use complex in Miami, including a 25,000-seat stadium, adjacent to the international airport. The goal is to open it in 2025.

Miami’s starting lineup included Lassiter, son of former United star Roy Lassiter, whose 88 goals rank 14th in MLS history. The eldest Lassiter played for DC in 1998-99 and 2002. The younger is in his first season with Miami after playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy and Houston Dynamo.

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