D.C. United's Wayne Rooney was sent out of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls after VAR confirmed that he had struck Red Bulls midfielder Cristian Cásseres Jr in the face as the two fought for position during a set piece.
The two clubs came into the night fighting for position in the Eastern Conference, with the Red Bulls sitting just one point back of Rooney’s side in fifth place.
New York also entered the match with a game in hand on United, and the early goal left the club in a strong position to leapfrog the home side in the standings.
United fell behind early on, with Kaku finishing off a fine move for the visiting side to hand the Red Bulls a 1-0 advantage in the sixth minute.
The early goal was a blow to D.C. and Rooney’s sending-off in the 24th minute seemed to have handed the visitors an even larger advantage, but it didn’t take long for both sides to find themselves playing with 10 men.
New York defender Amro Tarek picked up a booking 37 minutes in and was shown a second yellow card in first-half stoppage time, sending the clubs to the break with both sides down a man.
Despite the loss of Rooney, United pulled level early in the second half, new-signing Ola Kamara netting to bring the home side to even terms 55 minutes in.
But D.C. could not hold on for long.
Four minutes later the Red Bulls were back in front, Daniel Royer netting from the spot to condem United to a 2-1 loss.
The incoming suspension for Rooney will cut even shorter his limited time remaining in MLS.
Just six matches remain in United's regular-season schedule following Wednesday's match, and with the club's star man set to miss at least one of them there is no solid assurance that the club will reach the post-season.
With 39 points coming into the contest, now fifth-placed United held a narrow five-point lead over eighth-placed Orlando City in the Eastern Conference, with the top seven teams in each conference earning a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs.