D.C. United captain Steve Birnbaum suffered a concussion for the third time in six months during Sunday’s match at Portland and will not play in the MLS regular season finale this weekend.
In the closing minutes of United’s 4-0 defeat, Birnbaum misplayed the ball in his team’s end. Jeremy Ebobisse pressured the defender and, in the process of steering the ball back to teammate Sebastian Blanco, the rookie carried his weight and momentum onto Birnbaum’s back. The right side of the defender’s head struck the artificial turf.
With Birnbaum lying motionless on his stomach, referee Mark Geiger ran past the fallen player and did not stop play, violating officiating guidelines for situations involving a possible head injury. As Blanco weaved his way through D.C.’s defense for Portland’s fourth goal, United’s Paul Arriola checked on his teammate.
After the goal, Birnbaum got to his feet but wasn’t able to maintain balance. Geiger and Arriola steadied him as United’s medical trainers rushed onto the field. Having already made three substitutions, D.C. played the final few minutes with 10 men.
Birnbaum, 26, was evaluated by Portland’s medical team and returned to United’s hotel after the match. He was placed under concussion protocol and returned to Washington with the D.C. delegation Monday.
In the spring, the fourth-year pro missed three matches after a head-to-head collision with a New York Red Bulls player. In August, he sat out two games after two headers in Colorado left him with a concussion.
United attacker Chris Rolfe has missed the entire season — and is effectively retired — with concussion issues stemming from a head injury suffered early in the 2016 season. Midfielder Patrick Nyarko has not played since July 22 because of concussion-related symptoms; he has had seven concussions since 2008.
United (9-19-5) will close the 2017 campaign — and make its final appearance at RFK Stadium after 22 seasons — on Sunday afternoon against the playoff-bound Red Bulls (13-12-8).