Taxi Fountas accused of using racial slurs during DC United’s loss

On the one night that DC United ceded an injury-time winner in the 3-2 loss to Inter Miami at Audi Field, their late collapse was overshadowed by something much uglier.

After a second-half exchange on Sunday between United striker Taxi Fontas and Miami defender Damion Lowe led to a lengthy delay, in which both players received yellow cards and Fontas was promptly substituted, Miami coach Phil Neville said the clash was over the use of racial insult.

“A word that I think is unacceptable in society has been used,” Neville said. “The word I think is the worst word in the world has been used.”

Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin said Lowe was walking away after a struggle with Fountas when the man “called him the n-word” and teammate Aimé Mabika reacted angrily. Lowe and Mabeka are black. Yadlin said Miami decided “not to continue until something is done with this player.”

A club spokesman said Fontas, who scored his 12th goal of the season moments ago, was not available for comment amid an investigation by the club, MLS and the professional referees organisation. Referee Ismail Al-Fath told a reporter that no official had heard racist or offensive language and that none of it had been discovered by reviewing the video.

“The referee came and spoke to me and Phil, and there was a complaint, and I’m sure it will be investigated,” United manager Wayne Rooney said. “So there is nothing more than I can say.”

United said in a statement: “DC United is aware of allegations relating to a player during the match against Inter Miami. The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami to investigate the incident.”

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“The MLS does not tolerate abusive and offensive language and we take these allegations seriously,” the league said in a statement. “The investigation into this matter will begin immediately.”

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Six weeks later United made Christian Benteke the most expensive player in the club’s historyRooney finally had the chance to publish his signature for his summer award alongside Fontas, the only club star to miss Benteke’s first four games due to a concussion.

Benteke and Fontas sure found the net on Sunday. But Miami got two goals from Leonardo Campana, and after Fontas’ exit, an injury-time goal from Gonzalo Higuain.

For the last-place DC side (7-19-6) who had failed to score in eight of their past 10 games, the attacking explosion was a welcome one. But Fontas’ comeback was affected by the allegations, as was Miami’s decisive win in the midst of a playoff.

“It’s really a nice moment for us to be kind of in the dark,” said Yedlin, a member of the Black Players for Change group at MLS. “That’s something I’ve been candid about my whole career, so it’s really unfortunate to see it live.”

Benteke opened the scoring in the capital in the 22nd minute. United midfielder Chris Durkin sent a one-time serve inside the penalty area that the Belgian striker netted at the far post.

Miami (12-13-6) tied 39th on the imperfect finish of Campana during a stampede in the goal, then took the lead in the 53rd minute as the Ecuadorean striker again finished from close range.

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Fountas raised United’s level after four minutes. Miami executed a free kick straight to the top of the penalty area, with the Greek striker firing a one-time shot that took a healthy deflection in his path.

But the subsequent delay, in which Al-Fateh stopped meeting Rooney and Neville several times, and Fontas’ replacement in the 66th minute halted any momentum from United’s equalizer.

“We were trying to apply pressure,” Benteke said. “With that break, it slowed down the game.”

Both teams sought to win before Miami broke through a counter-attack in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Indiana Vasiliev touched a wide pass to Yedlin, whose low cross was directed by Higuaín.

“It doesn’t feel like a win,” Yedlin said. “Now we’ll see what MLS does about it [the accusation]. My eyes will be on it a lot. It is now up to them to take action and take a stand and show that not only does this have no place in the game but it has no place in society.”

Here’s what else you need to know about the DC United defeat:

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The match was the first meeting between Rooney and Neville since Rooney took over as United manager in July. They were teammates at Manchester United in 2004-05 and with the England national team from 2003 to 2007.

Neville praised Bruni for his decision to remove Fontas from the game.

“I have to give Wayne Rooney a huge, wide respect for treating him the way he did,” Neville said. “I’ve always known him as a top-notch business. I think today he has gone up in my estimation more than ever, more than any goal he has ever scored.”

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International break looms

United will be on hold next weekend as most of the MLS League stops at the final international window ahead of the World Cup in Qatar as the national teams fine-tune their tactics and get a last look at the players before submitting their rosters. DCF visits Montreal on October 1 before hosting FC Cincinnati on October 9 to close out the season.

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