Fabian Espindola was;t happy during DC United's 3-0 loss to depleted FC Dallas.

United struggles continue after 3-0 loss to FC Dallas

Washington, D.C. – Frustration continues to mount for D.C. United as Michael Barrios scored twice in the first half to lead the visiting FC Dallas to a comfortable 3-0 win at RFK Stadium last night.

United continued their struggle on both ends of the pitch by giving up two goals through defensive mistakes and also failing to hit the net for the second time in four league matches so far during this early part of the season. United (0-2-2, 2 points) have now dropped to ninth place in the Eastern Conference after their ineffective start to 2016. If you include United’s two CONCACAF matches, the team is winless through six matches and have managed to only score three times in that span.

United were missing their stalwart central defender Steve Birnbaum (away with the US National Team) and it showed today as Kofi Opare took his place in the lineup. While Opare was far from blame on most defensive issues on the day, he was a chief conspirator in the games opening goal just 14 minutes into the game. A seemingly routine clearance from either Opari or Taylor Kemp would have done the trick as they both were retreating towards United’s goal tracking down a wayward header from midfield. However, at the critical time to make a decision, both players hesitated in clearing the ball and it bungled into the path of FC Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios. The diminutive Barrios gladly picked up the loose ball and expertly curled a left-footed shot around Travis Worra who had no chance to save the shot.

United up until that point had established the tempo to their liking and had threatened the FC Dallas goal numerous times but as would be the case for the entire day the final moment of magic never came for the Black-and-Red and were left angry and frustrated after giving up the opening goal so comically.

FC Dallas doubled their lead in the 28th minute when Barrios exploited a huge patch of field right through the heart of United’s defense and toe-poked a shot over the onrushing Worra to continue United’s misery.

After the break things didn’t get any easier as Maxi Urruti put the visitors up 3-0 in the 52nd minute. FC Dallas were missing seven of their players due to international duty, but none of them were their regular starters in the offensive half of the field. That trademark speed that FC Dallas is known for carved United up as just two passes unlocked United and sent Fabian Castillo out alone on the left flank. His first time cross hit Max Urruti perfectly in stride in the penalty area and despite pressure from Taylor Kemp he settled the cross and pushed it past Worra for the games final goal.

The drama would not stop there and United’s frustration would continue to grow. United were given a penalty in the 66th minute which appeared to be a classic make up call from referee Jose Carlos Rivero who had waived off a penalty claim from Patrick Nyarko just two minutes prior. The foul on Nyarko was as plain as the nose on your face but Rivero made a motion that the FC Dallas defender got the ball, which he clearly didn’t.

Two minutes later Sean Franklin was hardly touched in the area and actually kept on running towards the loose ball when the whistle inexplicably went against FC Dallas. Up stepped Fabian Espindola to take the penalty shot and his shot was weak and right into the diving arms of former Maryland Terrapin goalkeeper Chris Seitz. United now has missed it’s last four penalty kicks going back to Chris Rolfe’s miss against the New England Revolution during last seasons MLS playoff win at RFK.  As Seitz outletted the save, Marcelo Sarvas caught up with Barrios and then all of sudden Barrios went down like he was shot. Rivero followed closely behind with a straight red card that sent Sarvas into a rage. Replays showed no contact through the player except for a wayward hand that barely brushed Barrios’ face.

With United a man down, the outcome was all but certain and now United will have to gather themselves and get ready for a cross-country flight and their first ever match at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California next Saturday night at 10:30 pm EST.

Fabi

Espindola rescues a point for United in 1-1 draw with Colorado

Washington, D.C., March 20, 2016 – D.C. United is still without a victory in 2016 but Fabian Espindola’s 80th minute strike salvaged a point in the home opening 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids tonight at RFK Stadium.

In a match that has come to define both teams in recent seasons, it wasn’t exactly Barca vs Real Madrid but the final twenty minutes had plenty of action that saw both teams earn a point. United (0-1-2, 2 points) fell behind on a Dillon Powers header in the 69th minute against the run of play. Although United had managed the tempo of the match to their liking through the first hour, it was once again set piece marking, or lack there of, that put United behind. Just a minute before the Rapids got the opener, United should have taken the lead when Lamar Neagle set up Steve Birnbaum beautifully in front of goal only to see his volley rocket over the goal.

On the ensuing run down the other end of the field Marco Pappa swung in a corner and Powers simply out hustled United and got to the ball first as Travis Worra was helpless to react in goal. It is the first goal Worra has given up in MLS, his second consecutive start and third game overall. Perhaps more ominous, it was the third set piece goal given up by United so far in three matches.

United responded well to the deficit and equalized in the 80th minute through substitute Fabian Espindola. Espindola, who has had a rather busy week after welcoming the birth of a daughter on Tuesday, got United level by finishing off a harried sequence in the penalty area after great initial service from left back Taylor Kemp.

The Maryland graduate whipped in his trademark left-footed cross that was misplayed by fellow Maryland alum goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the area where Patrick Nyarko pounced and sent a shot goal bound. Unfortunately former United defender Marc Burch nicely saved the ball off the line only to see it bounce straight to Espindola who took one touch before rifling a right-footed shot into the goal for his first goal of the season.

United very nearly took the lead just two minutes later when Espindola ripped a shot just over the crossbar from a tight angle and then set up Alvaro Saborio with a header attempt in front of goal only to see the shot weakly hit into the arms of MacMath.

Up next for United is a match on Saturday afternoon when FC Dallas comes to town. Both squads will be missing players for World Cup qualifiers being played over the next ten days.

United Notes

  • US goalkeeper Tim Howard was in the house today as he announced his signing with the Colorado Rapids, effective after the Premier League season ends in May. Howard will be eligible to play for the Rapids once the summer transfer window opens in June
  • United will be missing defender Steve Birnbaum (USA) and most likely forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) for their match on Saturday against FC Dallas. FC Dallas will be missing up to seven players for World Cup qualifiers as well as the USA U-23 teams two-leg knockout round with Colombia starting early next week
Ben Olsen Hopes Saborio will solve DC's scoring woes

United scraps their way to 0-0 draw in New England

Foxborough, Massachusetts, March 12, 2016 – D.C. United gained their first point of the season with a tough-as-nails 0-0 draw against the New England Revolution this afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. After giving up four second-half goals in their season opener in Los Angeles this past Sunday, United were much more resolute in defense and kept the home side to only three shots on goal in Travis Worra’s MLS starting debut.

The second-year keeper was forced into action as Andrew Dykstra was left home in Washington after suffering a slight injury in training during the week. United were also left short-handed as Patrick Nyarko, Markus Halsti and Fabian Espindola didn’t make the trip either. Worra didn’t have too much to worry about as he comfortably made all three of his saves but it was the one that got over his head that caused the most trouble when Lee Nguyen’s shot hit off the crossbar midway through the second half to give the Revs their best opportunity to take the lead.

While United did well enough in their opener to carve out more chances than was reasonably expected, today’s game fell back into line with expectations considering the players left behind. United was credited with three shots on goal as well with Rob Vincent’s first half drive the most dangerous of them all. However, it was the three near chances in the second half that United will look back on as missed opportunities to steal three points from the Revs.

First up was Luciano Acosta’s breakaway midway through the half but just as he was about to drive into the penalty area, his touch failed him and it allowed just enough time for Revolution defender Jose Goncalves to break the play up. United had two golden opportunities late in the match when substitute Miguel Aguilar broke down the right sideline and spotted fellow substitute Julian Buscher parked on the penalty spot all alone. A desperate leg flick from a Revolution defender prevented the ball from squeezing through traffic to Buscher who would have had Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth at his mercy.

The ensuing corner kick saw Bobby Bosworth’s flick header make its way to the far post where Nick DeLeon’s left-footed blast sailed just wide of the opposite upper 90.

The Revolution should have won the game in stoppage time when Nguyen set up Kellyn Rowe inside the United penalty area but token pressure from United defender Taylor Kemp forced Rowe’s shot just wide of the far post.

Next up for United is their home opener against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium. This match will be seen nationally on ESPN2 at 5pm EST.

 

 

Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

2nd-half collapse leads to United’s 4-1 loss in Los Angeles

Carson, California, March 7, 2016 – For forty-five minutes it was all going to plan for D.C. United and head coach Ben Olsen as they opened their 2016 campaign at the Stub Hub Center.

Get an early goal from debutante Lamar Neagle. Check.

Control the tempo and create most of the dangerous opportunities. Check.

Keep the Galaxy off balance and limit their scoring opportunities. Check.

Then the second half began and it all fell apart as the Los Angeles Galaxy stormed back with four unanswered goals to mitigate what was a hopeful result for the Black-and-Red. Mike Magee, the 2013 MLS MVP, made a triumphant return to the City of Angels with a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Galaxy to a 4-1 win over D.C. United before over 25,000 at the Stub Hub Center.

United could not have gotten off to a better start when high pressure forced Steven Gerrard into a turnover that Chris Rolfe pounced on. He was met almost immediately by Galaxy defender and Bryans Road, MD native son A.J. Delagarza. The collision resulted in the loose ball hitting Neagle in stride who took off towards goal. As the defense was closing, the newly acquired Neagle, a surprise starter for Fabian Espindola, unleashed a left-footed worm burner that got under the arms of Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for the quick 1-0 lead.

United kept the Galaxy under wraps for most of the first half and cruised into halftime with the 1-0 lead.

Then Mike Magee came on. Magee, who has torched United throughout his career no matter where he has played (Metrostars, Galaxy, Chicago and now back to LA) wasted no time in making his presence felt. The Galaxy should have tied it up as early as the 52nd minute but the crossbar and Andrew Dykstra made back-to-back saves on Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes respectively.

Just three minutes later the rout was on. Rookie defender Daniel Steres, a surprise starter for the Galaxy in his own right, barged through the penalty area and rocketed home a header from six yards off of a Magee corner kick. United were clearly stunned at this point and began to break down defensively.

However, United should have retaken the lead just minutes later when Neagle fed a beautiful defense-splitting pass to Nick DeLeon who charged towards goal. DeLeon easily beat substitute goalkeeper Brian Rowe (first half for injured Dan Kennedy) but couldn’t beat the far side post as the shot pinged away in frustration.

That missed opportunity was the key point in the match as soon after the Galaxy had the game-winning goal. Sebastian Lletget, who was giving United left-back Taylor Kemp headaches all night, cut back on Kemp and clipped a ball to the far post. United’s defensive positioning on the play was poor to say the least and Magee found himself wide open from 10 yards out. Magee simply lofted his second touch over the head of the committed Dykstra and the rout was on.

In the 83rd minute the Galaxy made it 3-1 after Robbie Keane converted a penalty kick after Dykstra inexplicably left his leg out to trip Magee who’s shot had already gone wide of the goal. The Irishman calmly put it past Dykstra and then the rout was complete when United fell asleep for a second time on a free kick and allowed Magee to dart in between two United defenders to power home a diving header and the final nail in United’s coffin.

United now must regroup and come back home before traveling up to another place that has been a house of horrors for them in recent years. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to take on the New England Revolution. The Revs pulled off their own miracle with a last-second headed goal in stoppage time to tie the Houston Dynamo 3-3 yesterday afternoon in Houston.

 

Ben Olsen

Early goal seals United’s fate in CONCACAF Champions League

Washington, D.C., March 1, 2016 – D.C. United knew they had an uphill climb to advance to the semi-final round of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League after falling behind 2-0 in Mexico last week.

What they didn’t expect was to be virtually eliminated from the competition just four minutes into the return leg at RFK Stadium. Querataro scored on their first attempt at goal in the 4th minute and by virtue of that all-important away goal, United would have needed to score four times without conceding over the remaining portion of the match.

“It changes everything, it changes the entire game,” United coach Ben Olsen said in his postgame news conference. “When you dig yourself in these holes, it’s tough to get out.

“Three minutes in, all of a sudden game’s over. Just like that.”

Tried as they might, United didn’t have the mental or physical ability to overcome such a deficit. Unfortunately for United they’ve made it a habit in recent two-leg affairs to go down big in the first leg and come up short in the second. Four of the last five two-legged series United has come home to RFK trailing by at least two goals. That makes for a difficult but not impossible task.

However, Angel Sepulveda put any chance of a comeback on ice with his cool finish in just the fourth minute. United defender Taylor Kemp should have done much better at clearing a loose ball along the left sideline by crafty Mexican international Sinha schooled the Maryland grad and whipped in a cross into the heart of the penalty area. United defenders Steve Birnbaum and Sean Franklin poorly tracked the ball and allowed Edgar Benitez to knock down a header to Sepulveda who gave goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra no chance.

Despite the huge mental letdown, United pushed forward and should have equalized early in the second half after Patrick Nyarko was awarded a penalty after a nifty move in the area before being hauled down. The normally reliable Chris Rolfe had his penalty well saved by Brazilian net minder Tiago Volpi, who was ultimately the difference maker in the two-leg series.

United did have one shining moment of brilliance in the match and it was the debut goal of United’s top draft pick Julian Buscher in the 84th minute to at least salvage a draw in the match. Buscher received a touch pass from fellow substitute Luciano Acosta and proceeded to head towards goal when he unleashed a 28-yard swerving rocket that clipped off the right post and past Volpi. It seemed fitting that a world-class strike was the only thing that got past Volpi in this series.

United now will have lick their wounds and turn their attention to their season-opening match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday evening in Carson, California. The Galaxy were also eliminated from the Champions League when they lost 4-0 in Mexico against Santos Laguna last night.

 

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D.C. United has work to do after falling 2-0 in Mexico

Washington, D.C., February 25, 2015 – There was plenty to be encouraged about during most of D.C. United’s match on the road in Querataro, Mexico on Tuesday evening in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup. Despite it being the first game in anger in 2015 for the Black-and-Red and also playing at 6,000 feet altitude, United acquitted themselves much better than anyone was expecting through the first 70 minutes of the match.

Unfortunately soccer matches are 90 minutes long and a pair of goals from Yerson Candelo and Edgar Benitez thirteen minutes apart late in the match put the Mexican side up 2-0 and in the drivers seat before the return leg at RFK Stadium on Tuesday evening.

United were not without their chances to spoil the party however. After a very suspect preseason in Florida in which the results weren’t exactly eye opening, United put the sword to the home side only to see their goalkeeper Tiago Volpi pull off his best Bill Hamid impersonation. Volpi came up with a number of saves at point-blank range, three alone on United defender Steve Birnbaum, to keep his side in the game.

United were predictably cautious in the games first twenty minutes but then went on to garner most of the games most dangerous chances over the next 50 minutes. Volpi easily claimed a number of long-range efforts from United (9 shots on goal total) during that span but it was his pair of double-saves and a kindly crossbar that kept United from taking a surprise lead.

Luciano Acosta’s 20-yard effort late in the first half was well saved by Volpi only to see the rebound come to Fabian Espindola who’s low shot was also smothered by Volpi. Fast forward to the second half and Taylor Kemp nearly scored the goal of his life in the 60th minute. Kemp, who is more left-footed than even the legendary Marco Etcheverry at times, cut inside from his left back position and unleashed a 24-yard curling right-footed rocket that had Volpi beat by a mile only to see the crossbar keep the ball out of the net.

A few minutes later Volpi once again pulled off his double-magic when he thwarted a Birnbaum header from 6 yards out from a Nick DeLeon throw in. Birnbaum reacted quicker than his defending counterpart and lashed a left-footed blast that Volpi barely got a paw on to send out for a corner kick.

This was the height of United’s frustration on the evening. First game of the season, high altitude and quickly tiring players meant that United had effectively wasted any opportunity of getting a solid result to take back to DC.

Sure enough, less than two minutes later the home side were ahead when Yerson Candelo unleashed an unstoppable shot from 20 yards out that gave goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra no chance. Substitute Rob Vincent seemed hesitant to close out Candelo and by the time Dykstra saw the shot, it was too late.

That goal effectively took whatever wind was left in United’s sails and they gave up a bad goal in the 83rd minute with some tired defending. Rookie midfielder Julian Bueschler was inexplicably inattentive when Mexican maestro Sinha had the ball near midfield. The Brazilian born Mexican international turned towards United’s goal but Bueschler turned the other direction and allowed Querataro’s playmaker to loft a pass over a surprisingly high defensive line from United. Sean Franklin made an attempt to head the ball clear but was not anywhere near close enough to stop the run from midfielder Edgar Benitez who ghosted in on goal and beat Dykstra to his near post for the 2-0 lead.

While a 2-0 lead is not the end of the world, a 1-0 deficit would have been slightly easier to overturn in Washington. As it stands, if United can put forth a similar effort, there is no reason to believe they can’t overturn the lead with some better finishing.

Perhaps the most impressive thing that one could take from Tuesday’s nights effort was that United had 9 shots on goal in a road match in Mexico. You could have totaled up United’s last five road games in MLS last season and they wouldn’t have totaled 9 shots on goal. Hell, you can even throw in the home leg against Red Bull at RFK last November too (they had zero shots on goal in that game).

You can attribute this to the addition of Acosta to United’s lineup. He’s a game-changer folks. He won’t put up Giovinco-type numbers but he will most definitely affect games in MLS this season. That in itself is a reason to be a little optimistic. Let’s be honest here, how many of us were expecting a similar result to what we witnessed last winter in Saprissa?

Granted a 2-goal deficit is not going to be easy considering that Querataro will most likely put numbers behind the ball and force United to break them down. Not exactly a strength of recent D.C. United squads. However, perhaps the performance in Mexico on Tuesday night has changed the mentality of this group of players.

It remains to be seen..

 

Ben Olsen, Chad Ashton. Photo: Tony Quinn

United’ season ends in New York after 1-0 loss

Harrison, N.J., November 9, 2015 – D.C. United’s season ended today very much in the style it has become accustomed to. Through much of 2015, United has put forth an honest, tough defensive effort backed by superior goalkeeping.

At the end of the day, as it was on this day and on most days this season, United had little to nothing to show in the attacking third of the field and their season ended in frustration with a 1-0 loss to New York Red Bulls yesterday afternoon at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

United’s mission was clear heading into this match trailing by 1 goal in the aggregate series. Keep Red Bull off the scoreboard and manage to get the goal that could get the match to extra time and perhaps penalty kicks to decide the winner.

Bradley Wright-Phillips put an end to that scenario when he scored in stoppage time to give Red Bull the lead and crush any hope United had of leveling the series. United’s shortcomings offensively in this series once again was in the forefront as they rarely tested Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles with a handful of half-chances and only two nondescript shots on goal, their only shots on goal through the two games.

Red Bull will now face the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference finals after the Crew defeated the Montreal Impact 3-1 after extra time yesterday. That series will start in two weeks as MLS will skip playing next weekend for the International break which sees the United States start their journey to Russia 2018 when they face St. Vincent and the Grenadines in St. Louis, Missouri.

As for United, this match typified the issues and struggles offensively the team had for most of the season. United scored only 9 goals in 18 total road matches in MLS this season and that lack of production once again forced Ben Olsen into a game plan that required his team to defend in numbers and limit Red Bull’s chances going forward.

That tactic worked for the most part but the Black-and-Red were unable to generate any quality scoring opportunities and they finally capitulated in stoppage time when United were forced to flood players forward. The series-clinching sequence began innocently enough with a routine clearance turned bad by captain Bobby Boswell. Boswell chested down a hopeful long ball easily enough but hesitated in booting the ball back up field and that allowed substitute Juan Veron to settle the ball and eventually center it to Wright-Phillips who easily evaded Bill Hamid and tapped the ball into an empty net as their most bitter rivals eliminated United from the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

United now will turn their attention to strengthening their roster ahead of the 2016 season and one thing is for sure, this team will most likely look very different to the one that was eliminated yesterday.

 

 

Dax and Perry

United fall 1-0 to Red Bull; Face uphill climb in 2nd leg at Red Bull Arena

Washington D.C., November 1, 2015 – The semi-final round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs began with two of the leagues most fierce rivals clashing at RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

D.C. United and New York Red Bull have met three of the past four years in the semi-final round only adding fuel to the fire between the clubs.

That bitterness played itself out on the pitch tonight as the visitors from the North scored a deserved 1-0 win before 19, 525 disappointed fans at East Capitol Street.

Dax McCarty’s diving header behind United’s defense in the 72nd minute was the difference maker as Red Bull take the 1-0 aggregate lead back up I-95 to Red Bull Arena next Sunday night. Additionally, the road goal scored by Red Bull means that United must score next weekend or their season will be over.

That goal was special for Red Bull but it came just three minutes after the games most vital talking point. United midfielder Markus Halsti was savagely taken down by substitute Red Bull defender Ronald Zubar in the 69th minute. Everyone watching was thinking straight red card except for the one man that mattered – referee Fotis Bazakos. He only produced a yellow card after a circle of Red Bull players begged and pleaded for mercy. That mercy was granted to the bemusement of United head coach Ben Olsen and the entire bench of the Black-and-Red.

Nevertheless, it was  less than efficient performance for United who looked tired after their Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday journey. Olsen noted after the match that players like Chris Rolfe and Nick DeLeon just didn’t have the required energy to take on a full week rested Red Bull squad.

It definitely showed as United were fractured and inconsistent all game long and logged a paltry 55% passing completion percentage (normal MLS games range in the 70% percentile) in addition to producing 0 shots on goal through the entire match.

Obviously you can’t win MLS playoff matches with those numbers much less advance past a top team like Red Bull.

Both teams came out with energy to begin the match abut United started to dictate tempo as the first half wandered on. However, that final ball was lacking all afternoon long and Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles had precious little to do.

Bill Hamid came up big in the 33rd minute to deny Mike Grella from a close-in sharp angle, blocking the shot with his face to keep the game scoreless. United’s best opportunity came via a free kick when Steve Birnbaum’s redirected header across the face of goal just missed the onrushing Perry Kitchen right in front of Robles.

After the break the visitors started to gain their foothold as United started to tire. Bill Hamid stopped Grella again in the 58th minute with a diving save of Grella’s header. Seconds later Red Bull left back Kemar Lawrence lined a shot off the near post and out.

The game turned in Red Bull’s favor in the 72nd minute when Sacha Kjlestan’s curling free kick sailed over a thicket of players in United’s penalty area to Dax McCarty who was all alone inside the goal box. His diving header gave Hamid no chance and the all-important road goal for Red Bull.

Seconds after the restart from the goal, United had arguably their best chance to score when Fabian Espindola launched a left-footed rocket from 22 yards that narrowly missed the near post.

That was the best United could produce on the evening as they struggled all night long to deal with Red Bull’s three-man central midfield. United, due to an injury to Chris Pontius, were forced to shuffle the lineup and pushed Rolfe from a forward position to wide midfield with Alvaro Saborio manning his striker spot. United also had to deal with the suspension of their captain Bobby Boswell after their win midweek over the New England Revolution.

Rolfe and DeLeon spent the majority of the match in central midfield in an attempt to negate the effectiveness of the Red Bull trio of McCarty-Kjlestan and Felipe. That in turn made United way too narrow and were unable to use outside backs Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin as outlets.

The solution is simple for United now. Because of the away goals rule, United can win the series if they win the game at Red Bull Arena by a 2-1 score or better. A 1-0 win for United is the only scoreline that would force the 30-minute extra time and ensuing penalty kick shootout, if necessary. A draw or a loss (obviously) would eliminate United from the playoffs.

Hamid Dives

United advance to Semi-finals after frenzied 2-1 win over the Revolution

Washington, D.C., October 29, 2015 – With the already rich playoff history between D.C. United and the New England Revolution at hand, was there any surprise that last night’s classic tilt would be any different?

D.C. United once again came from behind to snatch a 2-1 win over the Revs and advance to the semi-final round of the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. United will find out later this evening whether top seed Red Bull or #2 seed Columbus will come to town on Sunday afternoon to begin their home-and-home total goals series.

Chris Pontius’ header at the death in the first half and Chris Rolfe’s redemption strike in the 83rd minute cancelled out Juan Agudelo’s stunning world-class bicycle kick goal in the 15th minute at soggy RFK Stadium. This game had it all. Shots off the crossbar, the post, brilliant saves from both Bill Hamid and Bobby Shuttleworth and of course, controversy from official Mark Geiger.

Geiger awarded a penalty kick to United in the 74th minute when an Alvaro Saborio cross into the area deflected off the arm of Revs midfielder Kelyn Rowe. Unfortunately the normally reliable Rolfe (4 for 4 this season up to this point) hit his PK attempt off the inside of the post and out. Geiger again would be the center of attention in stoppage time when he waved off a hand ball claim in United’s area when Jermaine Jones attempted to cross and the ball clearly hit the arm of United defender Sean Franklin. Jones went ballistic at the no-call and chased Geiger down and made considerable contact with Geiger who immediately ejected the U.S. International. The sequence brought to mind a similar incident at the end of United’s playoffs last season when Fabian Espindola made contact with an assistant referee and was red carded. Espindola was then given a 6-game ban from MLS for those actions. One would believe that Jones’ punishment should be similar.

The game itself started out fast and furious and never let up through the final whistle. Chris Rolfe had the games first opportunity in the 4th minute when he ghosted in alone on Shuttleworth only to see his shot expertly kick-saved. Then came the moment that MLS fans will talk about for years. In the 15th minute a well worked passing sequence ended on the right foot of Kevin Alston on the wing. His one-time cross curled away from the line of players in the box. Agudelo tracked it and cracked a bicycle-kick from 16 yards out that left Hamid with no chance. Arguably the best goal ever scored in an MLS playoff game and incidentally the second bicycle kick goal scored by Agudelo at RFK. His first came when he was with Red Bull in 2011.

United can thank Bill Hamid for keeping them in the match because he was forced into back-to-back saves on Rowe within a minute of each other to keep United’s hopes alive. United responded in kind and should have equalized in the 21st minute when Espindola missed an open goal after latching onto a rebound save from a Chris Rolfe shot. Rolfe also had a near miss in the 26th minute when he skinned Revs defender Andrew Farrell only to see his left-foot shot hit the crossbar from close range.

As the half closed United were starting to take over the tempo of the match and the Black-and-Red got the precious equalizer just seconds before the halftime whistle. Espindola drew a foul along side the left side of the penalty area and his ensuing free kick found Pontius at the penalty spot. Pontius had to lean back and his header was perfectly placed into the far side netting to level the match at 1-1.

After the break the visitors regained control of the match and while Hamid didn’t have to make any critical saves, the Revs were buzzing around United’s goal. The pace had slowed considerably from the frenetic first 45 minutes as now both teams existence in the playoffs were at stake. After the ruckus in the 84th minute and the missed PK by Rolfe, it was Rolfe who would step up to nab the game-winner in the 83rd minute thanks to some enterprising play from Nick DeLeon and Espindola. DeLeon, who had struggled throughout the match, got hold of a ball outside the area and managed to hold on long enough for Espindola to overlap him. DeLeon’s clever back-heel set Espindola free and his pin-point pass between three Revs defenders found Rolfe all alone at the top of the goal box for an easy tap-in that sent the 11, 554 rain-soaked fans into delirium.

Just seconds after the Geiger/Jones confrontation, Geiger blew the final whistle and D.C. United had advanced in another playoff tilt with the Revolution.

United will now await the winner of tonight’s Montreal vs TFC match in Montreal. If the Impact win, United will face Red Bulls on Sunday. If TFC wins, the Crew, fresh off their 5-0 beatdown of United this past Sunday, will come to town.

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United a no-show in 5-0 drubbing in Columbus

Columbus, Ohio, October 26, 2015 – MLS had dubbed the final day of the 2015 regular season as “Decision Day” as all conference games would be played simultaneously.

Destruction Day

Demolition Day

Decapitation Day

Any of the above would have been a better description for D.C. United as they went paws up in a 5-0 loss in Columbus with the #2 seed in the East to play for. As it happened as all games came to a close in the East just after 7pm EST last night, only a draw would have given United that coveted #2 seed.

However, the shorthanded Crew had other ideas. Saddled with their two best players on the sideline due to yellow card accumulation (Kei Kamara and Federico Higuan) the home side Crew dominated from the opening kickoff by spreading United out and killing them on the flanks en route to their historic win. The loss was the worst for United since losing 5-0 in Kansas City in 1997.

Ethan Finley led the way with two goals and Jack McInerney, filling in for Kamara, chipped in a goal and an assist.

As a result of the loss, United dropped from second to fourth in the East and now will play a one-and-done match up this Wednesday night at RFK against the New England Revolution. If United manages to shake off one of the poorest efforts in recent memory and push past the Revs, Red Bull or Columbus will be waiting for them on the weekend. If Montreal beats Toronto FC on Wednesday (they beat TFC 2-1 last night to push ahead of United into 3rd place) then United would face Red Bull. United will face Columbus should TFC manage to beat Montreal in Montreal.

Either way, United has to show up on Wednesday against the Revs or their season is over much sooner than anyone anticipated.