CITY vs D.C. United: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


By Cole Sutton

A frustrating Saturday night for the 22,423 fans who packed CITYPARK for yet another home sellout as the Boys in Red earned only one point in a 2-2 draw against D.C. United. The draw is CITY's fourth of the young MLS season, only one behind their total from the entire 2023 campaign. After getting on the board first in the 19th minute courtesy of Josh Yaro's first career MLS goal CITY were almost instantly back on level terms as D.C United grabbed an equalizer before the CITYPARK PA announcer had even finished calling Yaro's name.

Former St. Louis winger Jared Stroud made his presence known in his first match at CITYPARK since being traded to D.C. in the offseason, tallying assists on both United goals and providing a dangerous attacking presence out wide. Something CITY has desperately lacked through five MLS games. Christian Benteke, who's appeared for multiple Premier League teams like Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Crystal Palace, also left his mark on the matchup by putting D.C. ahead with a tap-in goal giving the visitors a 2-1 advantage minutes before the halftime break.

CITY fought back in the second half to eventually earn a point but fans made their displeasure known after the full-time whistle. Loud boos from the North End as the refereeing, along with D.C.'s constant time-wasting, struck a nerve with home supporters. While there were times it looked like CITY could've (and should've) earned all three points, a draw will have to suffice. With so many months left on the MLS calendar, CITY have plenty of time to right the ship.

A final fun fact before we dive into the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly from Saturday's performance: CITY are the first expansion team in MLS history to go undefeated through their first five games in back-to-back seasons. Only the fifth club in league history to do so. A strong reminder on how lucky we are as a fanbase to see a club that has burst out of the gate competitive and striving for trophies.

The Good

Josh Yaro

With the glaring absence of Tim Parker, Josh Yaro was selected to jump into the starting XI on Saturday. The 29-year-old held his own in containing D.C. United's Christian Benteke who has played at the game's highest level across the pond. Not only did Yaro score his first career MLS goal in the first half, but he also held his own defensively with eight duels won. Seven of those duels came in the air defending the many crossing opportunities D.C. troubled CITY's backline with.

The Ghana international finished a full 90+ minute performance going 55/63 (87%) in accurate passing and nine passes into the attacking third. While we should hopefully see Tim Parker return to the lineup next week against Real Salt Lake, it's very comforting to see Yaro handle the opposition's attacking threat and even find the back of the net himself. Much more to come from the former CITY2 captain!

The Confidence of Joao Klauss

We all know how dangerous CITY's number nine can be when he's in good form, but we hadn't seen that from João Klauss in the first couple weeks of the MLS season. After co-leading St. Louis in goals with nine last season, "Santa Klauss" was scoreless through seven total matches including two legs of the Concacaf Champions Cup. After earning the start on Saturday night in a striker partnership with Sam Adeniran, Klauss showed flashes of brilliance in attack and succeeded in pressing high up the field which caused some turnovers from D.C. United.

The former Hoffenheim product earned a chance to draw Saturday's contest level again in the 70th minute after a tackle on Celio Pompeu prompted a VAR review and penalty. Klauss did a smooth stutter-step hesitation that sent the D.C. keeper the wrong way before burying his penalty at the right post. The 27-year-old striker finished the night with an 8.4 rating according to FotMob with six total shots on goal and two chances created.

Manager Bradley Carnell said in the post-game press conference that Klauss getting on the scoresheet for the first time this season is "massive" for the Brazilian striker and his confidence.

"It's massive for Klauss… He's got his fitness back you can see, he doesn't stop working for the 90 minutes and he's a real menace up top. He's working his way back and the harder you work you'll get into better situations and he did so tonight."

Hopefully after another full shift up top with Adeniran, we can start to see the two forwards build more chemistry and co-exist together more often. Carnell mentioned that CITY has done well bringing in substitutes that shift momentum and change the outcome of the game, maybe it works best to have a solo striker (either Klauss or Big Sam) with someone like AZ or Pompeu in support. Either way, it was great to see the big #9 in Red go off celebrating with his teammates after leveling the game at 2-2. A sight I hope to see a lot more in the future.

The Bad

Nikolas Dyhr

When the starting lineup was announced before the match, I was very excited to see Nikolas Dyhr earning his first league start at left-back. The 22-year-old has been in a very tough battle with Anthony Markanich to lock in that starting spot along the left flank, and this seemed to be a great opportunity to show what he can do if given more minutes. Dyhr did link up very well with Adeniran along the left touchline as he finished the game with five passes into CITY's attacking third, but defensively was a different story.

The Denmark international advanced up the pitch and supported the St. Louis rush whenever able, which is a huge part of Carnell's high-octane system. The only issue came in recovering back into position and defending against D.C. United's swift counterattacks. Dyhr recorded zero tackles and only one duel won according to FotMob, along with a 64% passing percentage earning him a 5.7 rating in only 57' of action. Being at the match, I felt at times that Dyhr was caught out of position when CITY would lose possession quickly. I noted in my ramblings Saturday night that both D.C. goals were developed up the Allcaps left side where Dyhr was patrolling. This is more of a question of how the wing-backs are used in Carnell's Red Bull system than Dyhr's poor performance as Markanich also gets upfield quickly and can be caught out of position on the other end.

I believe the former UEFA Conference League participant can play a huge role with the club and will eventually win the starting job over Markanich, the back line just seems to be vulnerable at times specifically in the wide areas.

Missed Chances

The 2-2 draw this weekend wasn't only frustrating due to D.C.'s time wasting and the refereeing (we'll get to them in a second), but also because of how many chances the Boys in Red missed that could've sealed three points. Looking at the advanced stats courtesy of FotMob, CITY led in shots, shots on goal, expected goals, big chances, and big chances missed.

This showed throughout the 100+ minutes of action, especially in the 95th when it looked like Nökkvi Thórisson, who came on for Adeniran in the 81st minute, was going to secure all three points as he was in on a one-on-one with United's netminder. D.C.'s Alexander Bono made an excellent kick save eventually saving a point for his side as well. While no one should be complaining that St. Louis is earning points with multiple draws in a row, eventually our attackers will need to be a bit more clinical on goal if we want to make another run at an MLS Cup in 2024.

The Ugly

Replacement Referrees (Again)

I know I've dogged the "replacement refs" that are in an unfortunate spot with the MLS and PRO (Professional Refereeing Organization) still hitting a stalemate in negotiations but Saturday night's performance was one of the worst I've seen so far this season. So many questionable calls in both non-important and very crucial situations frustrated the 22,000+ supporters at CITYPARK just as much as it's infuriated MLS fans across the country. Saturday's draw was the first time I heard very loud boo's coming from the North End following a full-time whistle. Followed by chants of "Pay Your Refs" that were heard as clear as day from the press area, you can tell how frustrated supporters are with the decision-making in the game.

However, it doesn't stop there as Bradley Carnell, along with CITY players, vented their frustration with the lack of rhythm in the game which was made worse by the officials. St. Louis' manager began his post-game press conference availability by apologizing to the fans.

"First of all, just want to apologize to the fans… There was a little bit of disruption of rhythm tonight. I hurt for the fans because they deserve more," Carnell said. "My focus is not really on the soccer match, there was no real soccer rhythm, no real soccer match tonight."

These quotes tell the club's frustration with both D.C. United's extraneous time-wasting efforts along with the officiating crew struggling to do anything about it. CITY captain Roman Bürki also had some things to say at the post-game podium.

"I think the frustration (from our side) was because I've never seen a team wasting time so much and the referee not doing anything. I thought the goalkeeper lost a leg, but then all of a sudden he was still able to kick the ball almost to my box," Burki joked.

"I told him (the ref) 'Is this not obvious?' and he asked me 'What can I do?' I thought, 'You have two cards in your pocket, I mean use them if you have to. Control the game, don't let the game (or the other side) control you.'"

According to ESPN soccer reporter Jeff Carlisle, voting on a new tentative agreement with PRO and the PSRA (Professional Soccer Referees Association) took place early Monday morning. Voting ends tonight at 11 pm CST according to Carlisle, hopefully, the agreement will pass and we'll start the process of getting qualified officials back on the pitch going forward.

Looking Ahead

The Boys in Red will hit the road this weekend for their second matchup of 2024 against Real Salt Lake who currently sit fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 2-1-2. CITY earned their first point of the MLS season against RSL back on February 24th in the CITYPARK home opener that finished 1-1.

After this weekend's trip, CITY will return home to Market Street for two matches against Texas' finest (FC Dallas on April 6th & Austin FC on April 14th) before traveling to Children's Mercy Park for the first of three rivalry matches against Sporting Kansas.