“A word was used that I think is unacceptable in society,” said Neville. “They used a word that I think is the worst word in the world.”
Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin said Lowe left after a scuffle with Fountas when “the guy called him the n-word” and teammate Aimé Mabika reacted angrily. Lowe and Mabika are Black. Yedlin said Miami decided “not to proceed until something was done with that player.”
Fountas, who scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season moments earlier, was not available for comment amid an investigation by the club, MLS and the Professional Referee Organization, a club spokesman said. Referee Ismail Elfath told a pool reporter that no official heard racist or violent language and that none was detected by video review.
“The referee came and spoke to me and Phil, and it was a complaint that I’m sure will be investigated,” said United Coach Wayne Rooney. “So I can’t say anything more.”
In a statement, United said: “DC United is aware of the allegations involving a player during the match against Inter Miami CF. The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami to investigate the incident.”
“MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language and we take these allegations very seriously,” the league said in a statement. “An investigation into this matter will begin immediately.”
Six weeks later United made Christian Benteke the most expensive player in club historyRooney finally got a chance to deploy his prized summer signing alongside Fountas, the club’s only all-star who missed Benteke’s first four matches with concussion.
Surely, Benteke and Fountas found the net on Sunday. But Miami got a pair of goals from Leonardo Campana and, after Fountas came off, a stoppage-time winner from Gonzalo Higuaín.
For a last-place DC team (7-19-6) that has not scored in eight of its past 10 games, the burst of offense has been welcome. The return of Fountas, on the other hand, was soured by the accusation, as was the decisive victory for a Miami team in the middle of a playoff push.
“It makes a really nice moment for us kind of dark,” said Yedlin, a member of the Black Players for Change group in MLS. “This is something I’ve been doing honestly my whole career, so it’s really sad to see it live.”
Benteke opened his DC scoring account in the 22nd minute. United midfielder Chris Durkin curled a one-time drive into the box which the Belgian striker stabbed home at the far post.
Miami (12-13-6) pulled level in the 39th on Campana’s botched finish during a goalmouth scramble, then took the lead in the 53rd when the Ecuadorian striker again finished from close range.
Fountas pulled United level four minutes later. Miami cleared a DC free kick to the top of the box, where the Greek forward launched a one-time volley that took a healthy deflection on its way.
But the subsequent delay, in which Elfath stopped to reunite with Rooney and Neville several times, and the 66th-minute substitution of Fountas halted any momentum from United’s equaliser.
“We tried to put pressure,” said Benteke. “With that break, it just slowed the game down.”
Both teams pressed for a winner before Miami broke through on a counterattack in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Indiana Vassilev touched a pass wide to Yedlin, whose low cross was steered in by Higuaín.
“It doesn’t even feel like a win,” Yedlin said. “Now we’ll see what the MLS does [the accusation]. My eyes will pay close attention to that. It’s now up to them to act and take a stand and show that this not only has no place in the game but no place in society.”
Here’s what else to know about the DC United defeat:
Ex-England teammates meet
The match was the first meeting between Rooney and Neville since Rooney took over as United’s coach in July. They were teammates at Manchester United in 2004-05 and with the England national team from 2003 to 2007.
Neville praised Rooney for his decision to remove Fountas from the game.
“I have to give massive, massive respect to Wayne Rooney for handling it the way he did,” said Neville. “I always knew him as a class act. I think today he’s stepped up in my estimation more than he’s ever done, more than any goal he’s ever scored.”
An international truce is looming
United are away next weekend as most of MLS goes into break for the final international window before the World Cup in Qatar while national teams fine-tune their tactics and get a final look at players before submitting their rosters. DC visits CF Montreal on October 1st before hosting FC Cincinnati on October 9th to close out the season.