Chris Pontius

United rout Fire and jump back into 2nd place in the Eastern Conference

Washington, D.C., October 18, 2015 – Just in the nick of time. Better now than never. Saving the best for last. D.C. United have regained their form and any of the aforementioned cliches would be more than appropriate.

Chris Pontius’s goal late in the first half got United on their way to an eventual 4-0 win over the hapless Chicago Fire and the result pushed United from fifth place to second place in the East with only next weeks game at Columbus left in the regular season. A win in Columbus locks up the 2nd seed (New York Red Bull clinched the top spot by virtue of their 4-1 win over Philadelphia this afternoon) for the Black-and Red. A draw would also work but it also would allow Toronto FC an opportunity to squeak into the second spot if they were to win their matchup against their Eastern Canadian rivals in Montreal next weekend.

All Eastern Conference games will start at 5pm next weekend so no team will know their destiny until their matches are played to the full 90 minutes.

As for today’s critical game, it was the first time this season that United had put forth a full 90-minute performance. Part of that had to do with the apathy on display from the visiting Fire who became the sixth team in MLS history to go an entire season without a win on the road (0-12-5). Most of it however had to do with the improved confidence of United as they were coming off their stoppage-time win over NYCFC over two weeks ago.

United pushed the pace from the opening whistle and for the first time in over three months United did not concede a first half goal, a certain bugaboo that has plagued the team seemingly all season long, particularly at RFK Stadium. After an enterprising but fruitless first 20 minutes for United, the visitors started to get into the match. However it was United that got on the board first thanks in part to great hustle from Chris Rolfe and eventually Chris Pontius.

Rolfe wiggled his way through a trio of Fire defenders about 40 yards from goal and was set to unleash Pontius on goal. Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis intervened and actually pushed the ball into the path of Pontius. Pontius, who has struggle all year to get back to full fitness from nagging injuries, burst through and rounded startled Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch and finished very well from an acute angle for his third goal of the season.

United were not off the hook just yet as Bill Hamid made a save in stoppage time to keep the game at 1-0. Hamid saved brilliantly from a Jeff Larentowicz free kick and then held his breath as the ensuing corner kick was volleyed inches wide by Cocis.

After the break it was only one team on the field United finally rewarded themselves after a season of one-goal wins and matches that seemed to drag on for eternity. Rolfe nearly doubled the advantage just minutes after the restart when Busch did well to parry his free kick away. The ensuing rebound eventually found its way to Markus Halsti but his goal bound shot was blocked by teammate Kofi Opare.

United finally did get the breathing room they desired in the 67 minute. After having success early in the season on corner kicks, it had been quite a while since United had scored from one and Bobby Boswell was the beneficiary of great service from Fabian Espindola as he flicked his corner to the far post where it easily nestled into the goal for his second goal of the season.

Espindola got on the scoreboard just four minutes later when his mostly intended cross redirected off of Fire defender Lovel Palmer and caught Busch out of position at the far post to make it 3-0 to United. The goal was Fabian’s fifth of the season.

United wrapped up their scoring in the 80th minute when substitute Alvaro Saborio redirected a deflected Sean Franklin shot into the goal for his seventh goal of the season and fourth with United. Saborio has scored in back-to-back games as a substitute and may have carved out an important role for United moving forward as a late-game difference maker.

Next up for United is the season-ending match in Columbus next Sunday at 5pm. Columbus will be without their top two star players as both Kei Kamara and Federico Higuan are both yellow card suspended for the match as they both picked up senseless yellows in their surprising 2-0 win in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.



Alvaro Saborio

Stoppage-time winner ends losing streak and sends D.C. United back to the playoffs

Washington, D.C., October 2, 2015 – Alvaro Saborio scored a 92nd minute game-winner to push D.C. United past visiting NYCFC 2-1 and into the playoffs for the second consecutive season in front of a gobsmacked season-high of over 21,ooo drenched fans at RFK Stadium.

Saborio had just missed an opportunity to put United ahead a few minutes earlier but more than made up for it with the game-winner, his third goal for the Black-and-Red since being acquired in July at the trade deadline. The win for United (14-12-6, 48 points) clinched their playoff spot and pushed the squad back into a tie with New York Red Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference.  The much needed win also stopped a horrid six-game unbeaten run which saw United plummet down the Eastern Conference standings. Incredibly, it was the 8th win this season for United after giving up the opening goal.

As this was the first game of the weekend, United could fall back to fourth place if both New England (at Chicago) and Columbus (at Red Bull) manage to win their games. A tie or a loss from either side will see them stay below United with only two league games to play.

As has been the case over the past two months at RFK, things once again got off to a horrible start. Frank Lampard slotted home a rebound from a Bill Hamid save just 48 seconds into the game to stun the soaked crowd at RFK. In United’s last five league home matches, they have given up goals in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 27th and 1st minute in each of those games. Even more amazing is that United has come back to win three of those games, including tonight’s match.

With the conditions getting steadily worse through the match, both teams managed to slog through the impediments of Mother Nature and it remained 1-0 heading into the break with neither team really taking the upper hand.

After the break however it was a different story and a different D.C. United. The Black-and-Red pushed the tempo from the jump and pushed NYCFC back into their own half for most of the second stanza. United thought it had scored the game-tying goal midway through the half when Fabian Espindola’s looping header met Chris Pontius at the back post. The UCSB product finished beautifully only to see the offside flag rule the goal out.

A few minutes later that same combination worked its magic again and this time the equalizer stood. Chris Pontius received a ball among a throng of NYCFC players but managed to weave his way around them for a blistering left-footed shot from 23 yards away. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders dove to his left and could only parry the ball right in front of goal. Espindola was quicker than the NYCFC defense and pushed the rebound into the goal for his fourth goal of the year.

Pontius very nearly gave United the lead just a few minutes later when his right-footed blast from 40 yards was well saved by Saunders and cleared out of danger before Saborio could pounce on the rebound.

Saborio should have given United the lead in the 90th minute when he was beautifully led to the penalty spot by Espindola only to see his weak left-footed shot saved by Saunders. However, just over a minute later Saborio would not miss his second opportunity. After a dazzling run through the rain-soaked pitch and most of NYCFC’s defense by Pontius, he was hauled down by defender Chris Wingert forty yards from goal. Wingert received a yellow card for his efforts and then up stepped Espindola to deliver the dagger blow.

The Argentine’s free kick floated over the wall and was miscleared by former United midfielder Andrew Jacobsen at the back post and fell gratefully to the foot of Saborio who poked the ball underneath Saunders for yet another come-from-behind win for United.

Up next for United is their last home match of the season against the Chicago Fire on Sunday October 18th at 2pm.

United’s winless streak hits six matches after 2-0 loss to Montreal

Montreal, Quebec, Canada, September 26, 2015 – D.C. United entered their match in Montreal on Saturday desperately needing a result to turn around their winless September in league play.

Two Didier Drogba highlight reel goals inside the first 11 minutes put rest to that wish as the Montreal Impact strolled to a comfortable 2-0 victory yesterday afternoon at Stade Sapudo. Once again United were the creators of their own demise when two critical defensive errors paved the path for both of Drogba’s sensational goals. The 37-year old striker has scored 7 goals in 6 league matches since signing with Montreal during the summer transfer window and an argument could be made that both goals on display were his best.

Montreal got on the score sheet in just the 4th minute after Taylor Kemp was whistled for a handball about 30 yards outside the area in front of goal. There was initial confusion on the play after Kemp badly misplayed a seemingly harmless clearance when it hit his left arm. Montreal striker Dominic Oduro picked up the loose ball and tried to round United goalkeeper Bill Hamid who successfully made the save and then cleared the ball out of play. However, referee Jair Maruffo called for the play to come back to the initial hand ball spot from Kemp. United felt undone as it seemed advantaged was played then taken back. After the match however it was confirmed that Maruffo had indeed blown the play dead at the time of the handball and was not going to allow the goal to stand had Oduro scored.

Drogba stepped up on the ensuing free kick and hit a masterful upper 90 shot that Hamid could only get his fingertips to as the ball ricocheted off the post and in for the early 1-0 lead. Perhaps the biggest sign of United’s continual problems during this season is the fact that the team has now given up an astonishing 10 goals this season inside the first five minutes of a game. No one in MLS is even close to United in that regard.

So, United is once again forced to play from behind and chase the match. Things got doubly worse just seven minutes later when Markus Halsti attempted a foolish back pass under heavy pressure from Montreal midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker. With teammates available in multiple directions to unload a simple pass, Halsti inexplicably tried to push the ball all the way back to Hamid in goal. The pass was criminally under hit and fell into the path of Drogba who only had United defender Steve Birnbaum to beat. Drogba easily juked Birnbaum out of his shorts just inside the penalty area and calmly lifted a shot over the onrushing Hamid for the 2-0 lead.

United should have cut the deficit in half just sixty seconds later but Chris Rolfe couldn’t control the rebound of a Fabian Espindola angled shot that was saved by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush right into the path of Rolfe who was just four yards out in front of goal. The ball it Rolfe in the chest and was smothered by Bush before Rolfe could get a foot on it to poke it home. That was pretty much the extent of United’s danger on the evening as the Impact saw the remainder of the match out without much difficulty.

The loss for United keeps United in fourth place in the Eastern Conference but the only good news for the Black-and-Red on the weekend was that all three teams above United did not win either. However, United is in danger of dropping to fifth place as Toronto FC are now just two points adrift of United and they have a game in hand.

Up next for United is a critical home match on Friday night against NYCFC. If United can win that match it would clinch a playoff berth as well as eliminate NYCFC from the playoffs. United lost their only match with NYCFC so far 3-1 in New York City in August.

Slumping United fall to 4th in the East after 2-1 loss at home to Columbus

Washington, D.C., September 19, 2015 – The age-old sports cliche is that you want to be playing your best as the playoffs approach. Well, D.C. United is doing anything but playing their best as the Black-and-Red drop their fourth match in five games tonight by a 2-1 score to visiting Columbus Crew SC.

Ethan Finlay and Kai Kamara staked Columbus to a 2-0 lead with goals on either side of halftime before Chris Rolfe cut the deficit to 2-1 with a penalty kick goal in the 68th minute. United should have leveled the match 84th minute but Alvaro Saborio’s equalizer was incorrectly ruled out by the far side assistant referee. Such is the way things go when you’re not playing your best soccer.

By virtue of the win, Columbus jumps into first place in the Eastern Conference while sending United tumbling down to fourth place with a tricky road match in Montreal next Saturday afternoon at 5pm. United had held the lead in the Eastern Conference for nearly fourth months until they were passed by New York Red Bull last weekend. A sequence of wins and draws by almost every team in the East combined with United’s five-game winless streak has seen United plummet in the standings. More than the obvious nosedive in the standings is the worrisome play of United.

Ironically, tonight’s match was “the best the team has looked in two months” according to head coach Ben Olsen after the match but it was a continuation of a trend of poor soccer that has put United in a position to scramble to secure a playoff spot. A win tonight would have clinched a playoff berth for United, but even with that missed opportunity it’s hard to see this current form of United doing any damage in the playoffs considering how ineffective they have been the past month and a half.

Frustration continued to mount throughout the match as the Crew deservedly took the lead through Ethan Finlay in the 27th minute. Once again poor defending led to the opening goal as Sean Franklin switched off for a second and failed to deal with a missed clearance and he allowed Tyson Wahl to bring down the ball and poke a cross into the goal mouth where Finlay beat Taylor Kemp to the ball and turned him before firing his shot over Bill Hamid from four yards out.

United twice failed to score on golden opportunities and Saborio was the culprit on both occasions. His break away after stripping Tony Tchani of the ball 30 yards from goal should have given United the early lead but he fired his shot right into the body of prone Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark. After the visitors had taken the lead Saborio had another chance to equalize when he ran through the heart of the Crew defense only to see his angled shot a bit rushed and pushed to the left of the far side post as Clark was closing down on him.

After the break the Crew doubled their lead through MLS’ leading goal scorer in Kamara in very similar circumstances to Saborio’s first attempt at goal. Tony Tchani burned sent an inch-perfect pass in behind United defender Steve Birnbaum where it met Kamara in stride. Birnbaum was guilty of trying to read the pass from Tchani and overcommited to the outside as Tchani’s pass went inside. Kamara, unlike Saborio, slipped his shot just inside the near post as Hamid was closing ranks on him. The goal for Kamara is his 21st of the season.

United did cut into the lead in the 68th minute after Sean Franklin’s attempted cross into the penalty area was knocked down by the arm of Crew defender Chris Klute. Rolfe stepped up and converted his third PK in three attempts this season despite Clark getting a solid hand to the shot bound for the upper left corner of the goal. For Rolfe, it was his 10th goal of the season and a personal season-high for the veteran midfielder who previously scored 9 goals twice for the Chicago Fire early in his MLS career.

While United looks to their match next weekend against Montreal, minus Perry Kitchen who has to serve a yellow card suspension, they first have to travel to Montego Bay in Jamaica to wrap up group play in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday evening. United have already clinched advancement out of the group and no doubt Ben Olsen will leave most, if not all of his starters back in D.C. to rest for the big game in Canada next Saturday.

Conor Doyle celebrates his goal against the visiting fire with DC United mid fielder Fabian Espindola

Washington, D.C., September 15, 2015 – D.C. United only needed a draw last night to clinch their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Group H advancement and did it one better with a comfortable 2-0 win over Arabe Unido of Panama last night at RFK Stadium.

Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey notched first-half goals to ease United into the knockout stages of the tournament next February. United has won their group for the second consecutive year and did it in the same fashion with head coach Ben Olsen using almost exclusively reserves through all of their group matches.

United flipped the script of recent matches at RFK by scoring first through Conor Doyle just 36 seconds into the match. The sequence began when central defender Steve Birnbaum (the only First X1 player to start) waltzed through the middle of Arabe Unido’s central midfield and found Chris Pontius on the left wing. Pontius then whipped in a left-footed cross intended for Jairo Arrieta but found it’s way to Doyle on the far post where he one-timed his shot back against the grain for the early lead.

United continued their comfortable tempo and doubled the lead in the 22nd minute when Jared Jeffrey got on the end of a Facundo Coria corner kick and headed home under no pressure from six yards away.

United continued to keep the visitors at bay and rightfully should have had at least one penalty shout early in the second half. Defender Luke Mishu was hauled down in the box rather clearly but the claim was ignored by ref from Guyana and then just two minutes later Coria was taken down as well but no call came forth.

Arabe Unido did have two very good chances of their own in the second half only to see the shots clang off the crossbar. First up was a mammoth free kick from 35 yards by Renan Addles in the 52nd minute that rocketed off the crossbar and five minutes later Abdiel Macia’s close-range effort hit the crossbar before going over after a poor defensive clearance from United.

United had two more good chances to improve their goal differential (and in turn improve their potential top-seeding for the quarterfinals) but Coria’s fine solo bid was well saved by the Arabe Unido goalkeeper as well as Doyle’s stoppage time bid as well.

United now only have their last Group H match left to play next Tuesday night in Jamaica against Montego Bay. As Olsen has done through this competition, he will most likely send a skeleton crew of reserves for the match.

Meanwhile, United will now turn their attention to a critical match at RFK on Saturday when they take on Columbus Crew SC. Columbus trails United by a single point as both teams have just five league matches to go.

United lost the lead in the Eastern Conference to New York Red Bull as a result of last weeks matches after having the lead for nearly four months of the season. A scenario does exist that if United loses to Columbus on Saturday, the Black-and-Red could potentially drop to fourth place in the East, if results go against them this week. Chief among those matches is a Red Bull/NE Revolution match up tonight at Foxborough. A draw between these teams would be the best result for United heading into their match up with the Crew.

Birnbaum’s late header salvages United effort in 1-1 draw in Colorado

Commerce City, Colorado, September 12, 2015 – D.C. United scored in the 87th minute to salvage a poor performance and capture a valuable point in their 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids last night at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

Steve Birnbaum’s towering header over the Rapids defense from a Fabian Espindola cross saved yet another unimaginative performance from United and helped to prevent a four-game losing streak. The point for United pushed them back into a tie with New York Red Bulls (45 point apiece – however United are behind via head-to-head and also have played three more games then Red Bull) and just ahead of the Columbus Crew SC 44 points).

With 12 days off between tonight’s match and the ugly 3-0 loss at Red Bull, it was expected that United would come out with a decidedly different attitude and tactical approach but it was more of the same that we have seen during United’s recent stretch of poor play. Putting numbers behind the ball, poor transition from defense to offense, senseless giveaways of the ball all over the field and no ability of the forwards to hold the ball to bring the midfield into play.

So it wasn’t exactly shocking when the Rapids took the lead in the 28th minute on a goal that has typified United’s recent frustrations. Colorado had a free kick sent into the penalty area that initially popped straight up into the air at the top of the box with no one on either team really tracking the ball. It eventually found the left foot of Bobby Burling who simply put a hopeful left-footed swing on the ball and it managed to find it’s way through a thicket of players and in off the far post for the 1-o lead.

Both teams were struggling to put any offense together as both teams spent the majority of the game taking turns turning the ball over to one another. However the home side had the lead and it was up to United to change the tone of the match.

With their backs against the wall and staring straight into a four-game losing streak United finally started to put together some cohesive play to at least threaten the Rapids. United’s best chance prior to the goal was when Chris Rolfe fed a pass to Espindola in the area that was a touch too heavy as Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin just beat Fabi to the ball.

United did finally get the point they were looking for thanks to the superior athletic ability of Birnbaum. Taylor Kemp slipped his free kick down the left flank to Espindola who then whipped in a left-footed cross to the far post where Birnbaum rose at least a foot above a Rapids defender to power his header past Irwin who did manage to get a hand to the shot before it found it’s way into the goal.

With a sense of relief of scoring such an important goal despite another awful performance flowing through the team, United were almost burned for relaxing when the Rapids should have nabbed the game-winner in stoppage time. United once again were second-best to a loose ball in the penalty area when Burling found Lucas Pittanari wide-open at the penalty spot.

With no one but Hamid in his way, the Argentine midfielder managed to whiff completely on the ball. The Rapids stayed with the play and still managed a shot towards goal but Hamid was there to make the game-saving play and keep the draw intact..

Up next for United in MLS is a home game against the surging Crew at RFK Stadium next Saturday night. Columbus trails United by just one point in the standings with Columbus with a game in hand.

Before that however United will host Arabe Unido on Tuesday night in CONCACAF Champions League play. A win will see United advance to the knockout stages next February. No doubt Olsen will continue to put out a reserve side for the match as the reserves have taken both of their prior matches in Group H play. United defeated Arabe Unido 1-0 in Panama City last month on an 85th minute goal by rookie Miguel Aguilar who leads the team in scoring in the competition with two goals.

Ben Olsen, Chad Ashton. Photo: Tony Quinn

United losing streak hits three games in dour 3-0 loss at Red Bull Arena

Harrison, New Jersey, August 30th, 2015 – D.C. United continued their poor run of play in MLS as they were completely outplayed in every facet of their 3-0 loss tonight at Red Bull Arena against their most bitter rivals New York Red Bull.

With the loss, United’s tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference lead is whittled down to two points and Red Bull have three games in hand. So, essentially United gave up the conference lead tonight after an awful performance which saw Red Bull control every aspect of the game. To a man Red Bull was better at every position on the field except for goalkeeper where Bill Hamid managed to keep this game from getting out of control.

Lloyd Sam opened the scoring late in the first half before Bradley Wright-Phillips doubled the advantage at the interval and then he completed the rout with a goal in the second half to send United to their third consecutive league loss.

Red Bull enforced their trademark high pressure from the opening whistle which in turn forced United into an uncountable number of turnovers that led to the domination from the home side. Exhibit A is the opener for Red Bull in the 33rd minute. United had possession of the ball in the defensive third of the field as Sean Franklin squared a pass to Bobby Boswell. United’s captain simply redirected the ball straight up the field twenty yards to no one in particular and Red Bull were off on an instant counter. Felipe found Bradley Wright-Phillips immediately at the top of the area and he quickly shifted the ball to Sam who tucked his shot away past the onrushing Hamid for the 1-0 lead. Sam tallied his third goal in three games against United this season and fifth in eight games total in his career against United which now officially puts him on the official United-Killer list with the likes of the immortal Imad Baba, Jack McInerney and Taylor Twellman.

With United clearly reeling, Red Bull took advantage and doubled the lead in the 42nd minute. A rather innocuous ball was sent into the corner where Mike Grella gathered it under token pressure from Taylor Kemp. Grella, sensing something special, blindly whipped in a cross into the goalmouth where Wright-Phillips beat Steve Birnbaum to the near post and hit a screaming one-timer volley from eight yards out that gave Hamid no chance.

Wright-Phillips would conclude the rout in the 64th minute when he beat a very poor offside trap from United to ghost in on Hamid and send in a shot to the far side netting.

On the evening it was a horror show for the Black-and-Red. They were beaten to every second ball, they were beaten to every tackle and were second-best on every 50/50 challenge. United seemed completely unprepared for what they were about to go through which seems strange seeing as they went through essentially the same type of beat down at Red Bull Arena in March when they fell by a 2-0 scoreline.

Somehow United will have to find a way to regroup and focus on their remaining six league matches. United will have the next two weeks off before taking on the suddenly red-hot (it figures) Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, Colorado on September 12th.



United in control of Group H of CCL play after 3-0 drubbing of Montego Bay United

Washington D.C., August 26, 2015 – D.C. United moved one step closer to advancement to the knockout stages of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League next winter with a thorough 3-0 win over Montego Bay United of Jamaica at RFK Stadium last night.

The win for United pushes them to the top of three-team Group H with 6 points out of six and a win over Arabe Unido next month at RFK will virtually seal the Black-and-Red’s advancement for a second year running.

With head coach Ben Olsen rotating his squad between MLS games, United put out almost the same exact starting X1 from last Wednesday’s 1-0 over Arabe Unido in Panama City. The same combination for that game-winning goal got United out in front in the 37th minute when Michael Farfan’s pass found Miguel Aguilar who worked his way free in the penalty area and put his shot between the legs of goalkeeper Jacomeno Barret for the 1-0 lead.

United should have doubled it’s advantage on multiple occasions early in the second half but found themselves wanting after easy misses from Facundo Coria and Jairo Arrieta. United would finally get that second goal on a bad clearance from the Montego Bay defense in the 70th minute.

From a corner kick United played a short ball to Farfan who initially sent the ball a bit too deep past the far post. However Coria did a good job in heading the wayward cross back into danger in the goal box. A very poor clearance from a Montego Bay defender saw Farfan back on the ball, this time much closer to goal. Farfan instinctively crossed it along the ground in front of goal where Kofi Opare’s sliding stab redirected the ball into goal.

United capped off the evening in the 90th minute with another penalty area scramble that saw a ball pop out to Conor Doyle who calmly slotted his angled shot past Barret from 10 yards away for the final 3-0 scoreline.

Up next for United in CCL play is their decisive return match with Arabe Unido at RFK Stadium on Tuesday, September 15th.

United now turn their attention to the years most important game to date – Sunday at Red Bull Arena against New York Red Bull. United stand five points clear of Red Bull but their rivals play away to Chicago tonight and with a victory there they could surpass United with a win on Sunday night.

Davy Arnaud struggles to maintain posetion

United’s struggles continue as they drop 2-0 decision at home to San Jose

Washington, D.C., August 22, 2015 – D.C. United continued their trend of giving up early goals at home and this time there was no miracle comeback to save them in their 2-0 loss tonight to the San Jose Earthquakes before a season-high 20,043 fans at RFK Stadium.

The loss for United (13-9-5, 44 points) is their second straight in league play but they will remain at least five points clear of New York Red Bull who are idle this weekend. Red Bull are United’s next league match a week from this Sunday and the Black-and-Red are in danger of letting their lead in the East and the Supporters Shield race slip away Even with a five point cushion, Red Bull have four matches in hand and are currently on a 7-1-1 run through MLS over the past two months.

For the fourth consecutive match at RFK, United gave up a goal within the first four minutes of the match. This time it was Chris Wondolowski who nabbed the early tally after United failed to clear out the area and somehow managed to lose MLS’ most potent goal-scorer over the past six seasons. Wondolowski was initially denied by Bobby Boswell at the top of the six-yard box but the failed clearance bounced back to Wondo who’s angled shot when through two United defenders and past Andrew Dykstra for the 1-0 lead.

United put forth plenty of energy and effort on the evening but lacked the final finishing touch and forward Alvaro Saborio had a night to forget in the finishing category. Saborio had a golden chance to level the match midway through the first half when his redirection of a Boswell flick in the penalty area somehow got deflected over the crossbar from just four yards away.

The frustration continued to mount for United as they had plenty of free kick and corner kick opportunities to grab the equalizer. However, as the night lingered on, you could just sense that United could not pull off the miracles they had been performing over the past month to turn deficit’s into victories.

After the break the visitors struck again within minutes of the restart. This time it was bona fide United killer Quincy Amarikwa who did the bulk of the damage in putting San Jose up 2-0. A very lax layoff pass from Sean Franklin (his first league start at right back in over two months) to Conor Doyle deep in San Jose territory was the genesis of the second goal. Wondo pounced on the errant pass and took off in the opposite direction. He spotted Amarikwa who torched Kofi Opare (starting for Steve Birnbaum who was carrying a knock from their CCL match in Panama on Wednesday) before laying a pass of to Shea Salinas streaking down the left flank. Salinas cut back deep in the box and sent a shot towards the far post that Dykstra simply did not get a good read on and it was 2-0 for San Jose.

That goal pretty much sealed the deal but United thought they had a goal in the 81st minute only to see Saborio’s wide-open header at the far post somehow miss the goal completely. The miss en-capsulized United’s evening and that was confirmed after the match when a clearly agitated Ben Olsen was in no mood to discuss his team’s shortcomings on the evening with the media.

Up next for United will be their second match in Group H play in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night at RFK Stadium when Montego Bay from Jamaica come to visit. Olsen will most likely roll out a lineup very similar to the group of players who defeated Arabe Unido 1-0 this past Wedensday in Panama City, Panama.

United’s next league match will be at Red Bull Stadium on Sunday, August 30th and will most likely be the match that will determine who will win the Eastern Conference. Red Bull has won (2-0) and drawn (2-2 at RFK) it’s two matches this season with United.

Aguilar nabs late game-winner as United open CCL with 1-0 win in Panama

Panama City, Panama, August 19, 2015 – Miguel Aguilar’s first professional goal in the 85th minute was the difference maker as D.C. United defeated Arabe Unido of Panama 1-0 last night in the opening game of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League campaign. Aguilar, United’s first-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft this past January, was having a night to forget up to the point in which he gave the Black-and-Red the perfect start to their Group H play.

With Arabe Unido coming into the match with three points from a 3-0 home win last week against Montego Bay (Jamaica), a win for the home side would have made advancement very difficult for United (only the group winners advance to the knockout rounds next February). However the surprising result means that United could possibly clinch advancement from Group H if they win their next two games, both at home against Montego Bay (next Tuesday at 8pm) and then a rematch with Unido on September 15th.

After a not-too-unexpected tough start to the match for United, due mostly to the fact that the squad was completely rotated out except for defender Steve Birnbaum from last Thursday’s 3-1 loss to NYCFC, United finally began to settle into the match when Chris Pontius’ rasping drive from 30 yards out was easily handled by Unido goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd midway through the first half. United defended well and only gave up a handful of half chances to the home side with Andrew Dykstra coming up big on a long-range drive by midfielder Rigoberto Nino just a few minutes after Pontius’ bid.

The best chance of the half for United came in the 35th minute when right back Jalen Robinson sent in a perfect cross from 35 yards out that met the forehead of Jairo Arrieta only to see the shot go narrowly over the crossbar.

After the break United really began to control the tempo of the match, often frustrating Unido to the point of a couple of rough tackles, most of which went unpunished by the referee. With both sides taking turns running at each other with little success, the match seemed to be headed to an inevitable 0-0 draw, which would have been more than acceptable for United. However, a bit of luck on both ends of the pitch after the 80th minute turned ultimately in United’s favor.

In the 80th minute, Arabe Unido should have take the lead. Winger Renaldo Addles did well to get down the left sideline and forge a bit of space by beating Robinson to the end line. His cross through the penalty area should have been tapped home into an empty net but substitute Joel Barcenes completely overthought the play and attempted an audacious back heel instead of a simple left-footed turn into the goal. The result saw the ball go through Barcenes’ legs and out the opposing sideline very much to United’s relief.

Given that reprieve United took full advantage of it. In the 85th minute Arrieta did well to bring down and control a ball under heavy pressure. Turning inside into the midfield, Arrieta spotted Facundo Coria heading towards the goal and slipped the ball to him. Coria then touched the ball to his left to Michael Farfan who had his back to goal just about 25 yards straight out from goal. Without hesitating Farfan back-heeled the ball through the legs of an Unido defender and right into the path of Aguilar. The rookie took a touch to split a pair of defenders and his next touch was a toe-poke that beat the onrushing Lloyd to give United the improbable 1-0 lead.

United easily saw out the remaining minutes of regulation and stoppage time to bring a huge 3 points back to Washington D.C. With the match in the books, United now will turn their attention to their weekend match up against the San Jose Earthquakes at RFK Stadium on Saturday night at 7pm. The Quakes picked up their second consecutive league win with an unexpected 5-0 drubbing of Sporting Kansas City in Kansas City last night.