Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Poor second half dooms United in 3-1 loss to NYCFC

Bronx, New York, August 13, 2015 – This type of loss has been coming for D.C. United. They’ve just been too stubborn to let it happen over the past three weeks but tonight it finally caved in as they allowed three second-half goals in a 3-1 loss to expansion side NYCFC tonight at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Thomas McNamara, David Villa and Kwadwo Poku all scored in the second stanza after United took a 1-0 lead in the 36th minuted through Alvaro Saborio.

Both teams came out relatively conservative though United had a golden opportunity in the third minute to take an early lead. Conor Doyle got loose behind NYCFC’s defense but a poor final touch prevented his one-v-one opportunity with Josh Saunders in goal. NYCFC had the next chance at grabbing the lead in the 21st minute when Villa’s hard angled shot was well saved by Bill Hamid.

United took the lead through some good fortune as NYCFC star Andres Pirlo put a back pass right into the path of a streaking Chris Rolfe. United’s leading scorer sprinted towards goal before squaring the ball to Saborio who’s shot kissed the inside of the far post before settling into the goal for his second goal with the Black-and-Red. United very nearly gave the lead up just sixty seconds later when the back line got caught out defensively only for Bobby Boswell’s lunging goal-line clearance of a Villa effort keeping United in the lead.

After that however it was all NYCFC as they put their foot on the accelerator right from the jump of the second half. Hamid came up huge in the 50th minute in what ended up being a bad sign of things to come. Just a minute later the home side was level as United fell asleep defensively, not for the first time. As the game was beginning to open up, Kwadwo Poku easily got behind Taylor Kemp and rounded Hamid and then slotted the ball to McNamara for an easy tap-in and his fifth goal of the season.

At this point United were simply trying to hang on to their 1-1 scoreline but the skill and class of Poku and Villa were too much for United to overcome. With United in a defensive shell and showing precious little in the way of possession or even passes strung together in the second half, it was Andres Pirlo who ultimately made the difference. In the 80th minute, Alvaro Saborio gave away a bad pass at midfield and then the Italian General simply picked apart United’s defense with an inch-perfect pass that had both Boswell and Sean Franklin playing the “you take it-I got it” game. As that indecision was happening, Villa forced his way between the two defenders and slotted a left-footed shot past a clearly exasperated Hamid for the 2-1 lead.

With United in free fall, Poku wrapped up his Man-of-the-Match performance as his physical speed and skill were no match for a back tracking Boswell. Poku simply overpowered United’s best defender and hammered a shot almost through Hamid for the final goal in a disappointing 3-1 loss.

Even with the loss United still maintain their 8-point lead in the Eastern Conference but now second place New York Red Bull have an eye towards the top of the conference as they have a healthy four games in hand on United.

Up next for United is a trip to Panama for their opening game in the Concacaf Champions League against Arabe Unido on Wednesday, August 19th. United is off this weekend from MLS action and will return to league play when they host the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, August 22nd at 7pm. The CCL match will be televised on Fox Soccer Plus at 8pm EST while their league tilt with the Quakes will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet at 7pm EST

Return of Hamid key factor in United’s 1-0 win in Montreal

Montreal, Canada – August 8 2015- Bill Hamid’s return to the nets couldn’t have come at a better time as his timely saves powered D.C. United to a 1-0 win in Montreal tonight at Stade Saputo.

Hamid, making his first appearance since June 27th, made two one-v-one saves on either side of halftime to help preserve the win for United, their third in a row. After setting an MLS record with back-to-back wins after a two-goal deficit in the previous two weeks, United came back down to Earth and set another league record in recording a win with only one shot attempted for the entire 90 minutes. One shot..

Chris Rolfe got that game-winning shot in the 13th minute thanks in part to the high pressure he and Jairo Arrieta put on the Impact defense. Arrieta poked the ball away from defender Victor Cabrera and beat Wandrille Lefevre to the loose ball and Arrieta, subbing in for the injured Fabian Espindola, tapped the ball into the path of Rolfe who easily dispatched his shot to the left of Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush for his team-leading 9th goal of the season and the early 1-0 lead.

To say United then sat back and decided to defend could be the understatement of the year. After giving up late goals in stoppage time in losses to Philadelphia, Seattle and FC Dallas on the road earlier this season due to their bunker mentality, this game was very much traveling the same path. At halftime the Impact had a 9-1 shots advantage with Hamid coming up big one-v-one on Andres Romero to keep United out in front.

After the break not much changed, in fact it got a little more worrisome for United as their deep bunker could not afford themselves the opportunity to hold possession and relieve pressure. Hamid stoned Dominic Oduro on a one-v-one challenge midway through the second half and also kept Montreal at bay with stellar positioning and solid command of his penalty area. If not for some wayward shooting inside the penalty area, most specifically from defender Eric Miller (two misses) and Dilly Duka (big miss from 6 yards out in stoppage time), United could have suffered the similar fate that took them down in games earlier this season employing a deep bunker.

As it happens, United (13-7-5, 44 points) extends their Eastern Conference lead to 11 points over Red Bull who host NYCFC tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena. Red Bull has four games in hand and could theoretically catch United should they win all four of those matches. One non-win however drops them below the winnable threshold. Needless to say, despite the very poor offensive showing tonight, it was a huge road win, their fourth of the season.

Speaking of NYCFC, they will be United’s next opponent when they meet next Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Due to both the Redskins and Ravens playing NFL Preseason games at the same time, this match will only be available via www.dcunited.com.

United’s 5-goal second half key their 6-4 win over Real Salt Lake

Washington, D.C., August 1, 2015 – D.C. United scored five second-half goals on their way to an historic 6-4 win this evening over Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium.

Chris Rolfe (above, photo: Martin Fernandez) led the way with two goals for the Black and Red as United (12-7-5, 41 points) further cemented their lead atop the Eastern Conference with their mind-boggling seventh come-from-behind win on the season. Just like last week United were behind by a goal inside of 90 seconds. Joao Plata scored through a thicket of players to the far post to put the visitors up 1-0.

With visions of last week’s 2-0 deficit against the Philadelphia Union streaming through their heads, United couldn’t believe they were reliving history. With a special emphasis on better starts in training all week, it was inconceivable to repeat their mistake from a week prior. Even worse, they fell behind by 2-0 in the 21st minute when Arundel High School’s very own Kyle Beckerman doubled the advantage with his long-range bomb off the far post.

Normally this would be enough for most teams to see their way to an unexpected loss but this version of D.C. United is a completely unique mystery at times. Chris Rolfe began the rally with some great individual work in stealing the ball of the feet of “All-Star” Tony Beltran and bending a wicked shot to the far post in the 42nd minute to give United some semblance of belief that they can pull off another two-goal rally for the second consecutive week.

After the break all Hell broke loose as both teams combined to score seven goals. Rolfe stepped up to convert a penalty kick after Bobby Boswell was wrestled to the ground in the penalty area by an RSL defender. Referee Boldomero Toledo pointed to the spot and Rolfe roofed his spot kick for his team-leading 8th goal of the season. Just five minutes later United claimed their first lead of the night when defender Taylor Kemp unleashed a rocket from 23 yards away that gave RSL goalkeeper Jeff Antinella no hope of stopping.

Not to be undone however the visitors came right back and leveled the match at 3-3 in the 62nd minute when RSL defender Aaron Maund out dueled Steve Birnbaum inside the goal box and headed in a Javier Morales free kick to the right of United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra.

The goals were now coming thick and fast and United once again took the lead inside of 60 seconds when Fabian Espindola finally capped off a wild sequence in front of goal. The play started when Alvaro Saborio received the ball deep in the penalty area and then the former RSL man completely juked Maund to the ground and curled a goal-bound shot to the far post. However Antinella got a fingertip to the ball to keep it out when mad scramble in front of the open goal at the far post resulted in an Espindola last gasp touch to push the ball over the goal line.

Incredibly though RSL came back to tie the score in the 68th minute when Morales found Abdoulie Mansally on the far post and the former striker-now defender embraced his forward roots and roofed a shot from a tight angle over the head of Dykstra to tie the match at 4-4.

With the crowd of 17, 288 in stunned disbelief in what they were witnessing, United turned it up a few notches and put the game away for good in the 79th minute. United had won a corner kick opportunity after a brilliant one-two display from Saborio and Espindola as they split open the RSL defense with a series of moves that had the stadium buzzing. With RSL a bit unsettled, they failed to pay attention to Kemp who received the quick pass from Espindola’s corner and then sent in one of his now textbook crosses that met the head of Perry Kitchen to easily beat Antinella for his third goal of the season and the eventual game-winning goal.

With RSL now pushing forward in hopes of an equalizer, and who could blame them considering how the crazy match was unfolding, it was United’s best player on the night Nick DeLeon saving the best for last. DeLeon, flush with confidence after his goal last week snapped a year-long drought, unleashed a left-footed curling blast into the far side netting from 22 yards in the 85th minute that sent the stadium into delirium. Not only was this the best goal of DeLeon’s career, it was arguably his most influential performance since his game-winning goal to eliminate Red Bull from the 2012 playoffs.

United easily saw out the remaining minutes of what can only be classified as one of the most entertaining games in the 60-year history of RFK Stadium. This game will go on the short list right beside the 1997 MLS Cup win over the Colorado Rapids and the 2004 Eastern Conference Final win over the New England Revolution on penalty kicks that vaulted United to the last of their four MLS Cup titles.

Can this game signify something similar? How could anyone know the answer to that but this club this season are defying all the odds and it could very well be a possibility come this December.

Alvaro Saborio

Terrible start, Fantastic finish as D.C. United top Philadelphia at RFK

Washington, D.C., July 26, 2015 – The bad news – United has waited over a month to play a home game and they fell behind the Philadelphia Union 2-0 inside of four minutes. The good news – there were still eighty-six minutes to go and United used every one of them to their advantage in a stunning 3-2 come-from-behind win at sticky RFK Stadium this afternoon.

Alvaro Saborio, above (Phot0: Martin Fernandez), marked his debut with United with the opening goal of the comeback and Nick DeLeon ended it with his first goal in MLS in over a year as a season-high 19,125 fans were put through the emotional ringer once again. The victory for United (11-7-5, 38 points) pushed their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over second place Columbus. It was also the sixth time this season that the Black-and-Red had won after conceding the opening goal of the game. Even more mind blowing than that is that United has only led at halftime of 3 of 22 games this season.

While United will ultimately take a deep breath and enjoy the win, things started out in horrific fashion as defensive lapses led directly to both of the Union’s opening goals. In just the first ten seconds of the match, right back Chris Korb sent a lazy pass that was easily intercepted and eventually channeled to C.J. Sapong just inside the penalty area. Sapong easily brushed off Steve Birnbaum and surprisingly found himself at the penalty spot all alone and beat Andrew Dykstra to his right for a 1-0 lead.

With RFK still reeling from the early deficit, the Union doubled their lead to the disbelief of everyone on and off the field. Chaco Maidana sent a harmless ball to Sebastien Le Toux on United’s right flank. Korb gave the Frenchman a bit too much room as he centered a ball into the heart of the goalmouth. Somehow the ball managed to elude both Sapong and Birnbaum and sleepily tucked into the far post netting for an unthinkable 2-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

Although United were understandably rocked, they soon regained their composure enough to start threatening the Union goal. United got their best opportunity midway through the half when Saborio’s give-and-go with Davy Arnaud ended up with Arnaud being chopped down in the penalty area. Fabian Espindola stepped up to take the PK despite the fact that Chris Rolfe had converted his last two spot kicks. Almost predictably, Espindola sent his shot well over the crossbar to further deflate the crowd.

All was not lost however as Saborio cut the deficit in half in the 37th minute when his volleyed shot from a Korb cross beat Union goalkeeper Brian Slyvestre just inside the near post. Buoyed by that goal United took over the match after the break and it seemed like only a matter of time until they nabbed the equalizer. With the Union pinned down in their own end, United created a number of chances to equalize but were coming just a bit short.

That all changed in the 66th minute when a mountain-sized gorilla was finally lifted off the back of Nick DeLeon. It had been over a year since NDL scored on July 4th of last year and today’s goal couldn’t have come at a better time. Espindola, who had been wreaking havoc on the left flank all half long, made a rare foray into the center of the field and found himself on the ball outside the top of the penalty area. Espindola juked and jived his way into some space to unleash his patented left-footed blast. Slyvestre could only parry the ball away a few feet and that is all DeLeon needed as he slipped the rebound under Sylvestre to level the match at 2-2.

And as has been the case five times at RFK alone this season, United completed the comeback in the 79th minute when Espindola headed down a beautiful cross from Korb for the game-winner. Just seconds earlier, the Union were inches away from taking the lead when Sapong beat Dykstra to a loose ball in the box and his chipped attempt crashed down off the crossbar to set up the sequence that saw United to another head-scratching win.

After that emotional and physical roller coaster ride, United will welcome in Saborio’s old team Real Salt Lake into town next Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

 

United fall in stoppage-time 2-1 in Dallas

Frisco, Texas, July 18, 2015 – Fabian Castillo’s goal in the 93rd minute was the game-winner as FC Dallas defeated D.C. United 2-1 tonight at Toyota Stadium in steamy Frisco, Texas.

Playing in hazy and humid conditions, United struggled all night long in dealing with FC Dallas’ seemingly endless attacking and were fortunate not to suffer a heavier scoreline loss if not for some wayward shooting and good goalkeeping from Andrew Dykstra. The home side were on the front foot from the very beginning and dominated nearly every aspect of the game. This was rather disappointing for United as they were just coming off a well-needed 15 day break, but in many ways this may have been the worse team to come back to league play against as the home side were riding a three-game winning streak while United had gone scoreless in their previous two league matches before their break.

Once again head coach Ben Olsen was forced to shuffle his lineup with the suspension of Fabian Espindola and the surgery to Bill Hamid’s knee and wrist. Starting his 21st different lineup in 22 games, United had a tall task ahead of them and those who were expecting a struggle from the Black-and-Red tonight certainly got it. FC Dallas with rapid fire attack led by Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz had United on their heels all night long.

However, it was seldom marked defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta who proved the biggest thorn in United’s side. Three times the midfielder unleashed shots from outside the area that nearly gave FC Dallas the lead. As the game wore on and the missed chances continued to mount for the home side, the more likely it would seem United could walk out of Dallas with a point. All that seemed to end in the 73rd minute when Acosta got on the end of a scrambling play in the penalty area and converted from two yards out right in front of Dykstra.

It was certainly deserved from FC Dallas as they had unleashed an attacking onslaught rarely seen against United this season. However, in almost typical never-say-die fashion for United this season, they equalized just four minutes later with an own-goal. Left back Taylor Kemp sent a wicked bending cross into the heart of the goalmouth in the direction of Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rican forward lunged for the ball and missed it but it did ricochet off the knee of FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges and flew past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to level the match at 1-1.

United thought they had escaped with a brutally hard-fought point. They were mistaken as Fabian Castillo broke their spirit with a goal in the 93rd minute. Facundo Coria, a very late substitute, unwisely tried to attach through the FC Dallas defense late in the stoppage time when a more prudent approach would have been to maintain possession. The resulting turnover sparked a counter attack for FC Dallas and put United on their heels. The ball got to the right side of the penalty area when it was centered to the awaiting Victor Ulloa. The homegrown product appeared to scuff his shot and in the process United defender Taylor Kemp, in an attempt to block the shot, redirected the ball right into the path of Castillo who blasted the shot past the helpless Dykstra for the game-winner.

On the balance of things, it was a deserved three points for Dallas, just as the previous league match (and game-winning goal in the 89th minute) in Seattle went down. The back-to-back losses for United ended their longest road trip of the season and garnered them 4 out of a possible 12 points. United still remain firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference but they’ve also played more matches than most of the teams chasing them from behind. As of now, only Toronto FC and New York Red Bull have an opportunity to catch United on points based on games played.

United now will turn their attention to next Sunday’s home game at RFK Stadium against the Philadelphia Union. The Union were 2-1 losers in Toronto earlier in the day.

 

Jairo Arrieta celebrates his first goal of the night against the visiting fire.

Missed opportunities sink United in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 loss to Philadelphia Union

Chester, Pennsylvania, June 30th, 2015 – D.C. United crashed out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament this evening after a 2-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. The win for the Union pushes them into a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of the New York Red Bull and New York Cosmos match tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena.

United had to once again shuffle their lineup due to so many matches in so little time and this time it did not pay off as it did last week in Chicago. Philadelphia on the other hand, with no league match this weekend, sent out their best available starting X1 to go against a mainly reserve side for United. However, it was the Black-and-Red who missed on two golden opportunities to take the lead.

In the 18th minute, Miguel Aguilar worked a perfect give-and-go with Jairo Arrieta that saw Aguilar one-on-one with Union goalkeeper John McCarthy. The rookie midfielder sent his shot high and just slightly over the crossbar from an angle when a side-footed shot to the far post would have sufficed. Three minutes later McCarthy would deny United a second bite of the apple when he reached back to tip a goal-bound header from Steve Birnbaum off the post and back into his grateful arms. Facundo Coria’s free kick service met Birnbaum perfectly but United was even on the scoreboard at 0-0.

The match changed in the 25th minute when Union forward C.J. Sapong was given  a straight red for his elbow-leading foul on Kofi Opare. Replays showed while he lead with the elbow, a straight red was a bit of a harsh decision by referee Fatis Bazakos. United took advantage of the shortage and scored just three minutes later thanks to some very nice build up play. Jared Jeffrey touched a ball out to the wing to Aguilar who returned the favor to Jeffrey who streaked into the penalty area. Jeffrey deftly back heeled the ball right into the path of Arrieta who made no mistake in blasting it past McCarthy for a 1-0 lead.

However, even with the man advantage for over 60 more minutes, United failed to take advantage and allowed the Union back into the match. Philadelphia tied it up when United, again with a man advantage, somehow allowed the Union’s left back Sheanon Williams to fly past United right back Jalen Robinson who easily centered the ball to a wide-open left sided midfielder Erik Ayuk who had the entire open goal to score and leveled the match at 1-1.

Not to be outdone, the Union set Robinson up once again and worked a perfect triangle around the second-year player that allowed Fabinho to ghost in on goal and unleash an angled left-footed blast over Andrew Dysktra for the game-winning goal.

While head coach Ben Olsen is no doubt upset about losing a game being up a man for over an hour, it was United’s second team against the Union’s top choices, but that doesn’t take any anything away from the admittedly poor performance from United.

United now will hop on a plane and head to Seattle to face an extremely short-handed Sounders squad on Friday night. The Sounders will be missing both of their top players in Clint Dempsey (with the US Gold Cup squad in their match on Friday against Guatemala in Nashville, TN) and Obefemi Martins (abductor strain) as well as Guatemalan midfielder and noted United-killer Marco Pappa as well as possibly their third DP in midfielder Oswaldo Alonso who is still nursing an injury. No better time to take a result from one of the league’s most difficult places to play.

The only good news coming out of tonight’s result is that Olsen got to rest a lot of his normal starters and the schedule after United’s match in Seattle starts to settle down, thanks mostly to being eliminated from the Open Cup tonight, and Olsen can start planning for week-long practices and shaping his best X1 heading into the last third of the MLS season.

United earns valuable point after 0-0 draw in Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, June 27, 2015 – D.C. United toughed out a valuable point in difficult conditions this afternoon as they drew with Toronto FC 0-0 at BMO Field in front of a soggy partisan crowd. Heavy rains combined with a four game in ten day road journey for the Black-and-Red further complicated matters. However, United displayed their usual defensive shape and discipline and kept the home side to precious few opportunities thanks in part to a number of saves from Bill Hamid in goal.

The last time D.C. United (10-5-5, 35 points) faced Toronto FC (7-6-2, 23 points) they were undone by diminutive Italian striker Sebastian Giovinco who seemingly beat United by himself as he scored both goals in the 2-1 win at RFK earlier this month that snapped United’s 20-game unbeaten run at East Capitol Street. Today however Giovinco was not his normal MVP self as he seemed a touch off all game long, perhaps affected by the windy and rainy conditions.

Although United gave up most of the possession in the match, they created more chances to take the lead as a Luis Silva drive from 25-yards was parried away by TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka midway through the first half. United probably should have taken the lead on the ensuing corner kick when Nick DeLeon flashed wide open from 4 yards out in front of goal but his header went inexplicably wide of the goal.

Hamid was forced into a number of saves throughout the match but none were what you would consider terribly dangerous. In fact, Hamid has become so adept in his positioning, a perfect shot is the only thing that can beat him nowadays as he posted a second consecutive shutout. With United embarked in the middle of a the aforementioned crush of matches, head coach Ben Olsen once again shifted his lineup and put out what could be considered his best lineup considering the injury situations with Sean Franklin (tendinitis) and Chris Pontius (hamstring).

Even with the almost game-by-game changes enforced by the schedule, United continued to shine defensively and played toe-to-toe with arguably the best attack in the Eastern Conference with TFC. Steve Birnbaum had a particularly outstanding match, bouncing back from a series of matches since his ankle injury in April that have been less than stellar for the second year man. Taylor Kemp and Chris Korb aslo came back into the lineup and played well as both players were instrumental in breaking up more than a few dangerous chances.

United came into the match with a 10-point lead over the New England Revolution and a 12-point lead over TFC, though the hosts do have five games in hand. TFC’s job got a bit more difficult after today’s draw still leaving them 12 points clear. TFC will now have to play their next month’s worth of matches minus U.S. stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore and they will also be without Canadian players Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio.

As for United, they will move on to their fifth-round U.S. Open Cup tie with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday night and then jetting off to Seattle to take on the Sounders on Friday night. Olsen will undoubtedly shift the lineup heavily once more for the Open Cup match with a more-than-decent chance of taking a rare win in Seattle as the hosts will be missing a slew of players including their two most dangerous ones in Clint Dempsey (Gold Cup) and Obefemi Martins (abductor strain).

 

Ben Olsen, Chad Ashton. Photo: Tony Quinn

United extend lead in the East courtesy of Doyle wonder goal

Bridgeview, Illinois, June 24, 2015 – Conor Doyle’s sure to be goal-of-the-week blast in the 73rd minute was all D.C. United needed in their 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire tonight at Toyota Park. The win extend United’s lead in the Eastern Conference to ten points after the New England Revolution fell to Columbus in Columbus earlier in the evening. The shutout for United (10-5-4, 34 points) was the first for the Black-and-Red in 12 league games.

Head coach Ben Olsen once again made numerous changes to his lineup after Sunday’s 2-1 win at home against the Revolution in the face of four matches in ten days. Facundo Coria made his first start in MLS for United and got the first chance to score when his dipping bid from 22 yards was saved by Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson early in the first half. Johnson was called up again just a few minutes later when he parried away a goal-bound effort from Jairo Arietta, making his first start in two weeks.

On the other end of the field Bill Hamid had precious little to do aside from a few slight scares but was not called upon for any save opportunities. United clearly came out of the game with a purpose and even though the squad was almost completely rotated out, the formation change put forth by Olsen put the team in a different mindset and although they didn’t score in the first half, the effort put forth was different from what has been seen lately when United had fallen behind in 8 of their last 9 league matches.

Olsen employed a three-man midfield tucked in behind the front runner Arietta with Luis Silva and Coria playing side-by-side with Markus Halsti protecting underneath. Doyle and Miguel Aguilar manned the flanks and Luke Mishu got a start at his preferred left-back with Steve Birnbaum playing on the right with Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare patrolling central defense.

The change worked as the home side had no clue how to penetrate United’s disciplined defense. As the game wore on United got even stronger in the back as the Fire were forced to try and dump the ball over the United defense to no avail. Either United cleaned up nicely or the Fire were caught offside as United played their trap to perfection all night long.

United’s hard work paid off in the 73rd minute when Conor Doyle came up a with a goal that will not be forgotten any time soon in D.C. Fabian Espindola floated a free kick from the left flank into the penalty area where Birnbaum kept the ball alive at the back post. The ball ricocheted around the area for a second before landing at the feet of Boswell who’s toe-poked effort rebounded back outside the penalty area and into the path of Doyle who unleashed a 25-yard blast that flashed past Sean Johnson before he could even raise his hands to attempt to deflect the shot.

The goal sucked all the air out of Toyota Park and United easily saw out the remainder of the match in true first-place fashion. With another match just three days away in Toronto, United is already playing with house money thanks to the three points collected this evening when a draw would have been more than satisfactory for Olsen. With key starters getting rested tonight, United will most likely be at full-strength heading into their match in Canada save for the nagging injuries for Chris Pontius and Sean Franklin.

United’s match against TFC will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet at 5pm on Saturday afternoon. TFC easily put away their rivals the Montreal Impact at BMO Field 3-1 earlier this evening and United will definitely have revenge on their minds as it was TFC who snapped United’s 20-game unbeaten run at RFK two weekends ago.

DC United defeated the visiting New England Revolution 2-1 behind two second half goals from Chris Role. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United ends two-game slide with 2-1 win over the Revolution

Washington, D.C, June 21, 2015 – Chris Rolfe (18) scored a pair of goals in the second half to lead D.C. United to an important 2-1 win over the New England Revolution at steamy RFK Stadium and extend their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

The win also pushed United (9-5-4, 31 points) to the top of the Supporters Shield race above the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps who both sit two points behind the Black-and-Red.

Both teams had midweek U.S. Open Cup matches to deal with but both sides held out the majority of their starting players for this match up on East Capitol Street. With the Revolution (6-5-6, 24 points) only four points behind United with a game in hand at the start of the match, it was of major importance for the visitors to set the tone and let United know they have a challenge for the top spot in the East.

The Revolution took advantage of a sleepy beginning for United and gained the early lead in the 10th minute. United midfielder Perry Kitchen was inattentive in his marking and allowed Revs midfielder Lee Ngyuen to slip behind him and the U.S. International fed a beautiful pass behind United’s defense where former United forward Charlie Davies smoothly side-footed a left-footed shot into the far corner past Bill Hamid for the 1-0 lead.

United very much were feeling the muggy conditions through the first half and struggled to maintain possession against the Revolution and were fortunate not to go down 2-0 in the 23rd minute when Hamid came up huge and smothered a goal-bound effort from Chris Tierney after he was sent in alone by another defense-splitting pass from Nguyen.

That save from Hamid seemed to wake United up and they upped the tempo through the remainder of the first half but as has been the case for long stretches of time in recent weeks, United just couldn’t find that final pass or final ball to set up a scoring chance. Chris Rolfe’s individual effort late in the first half was the sum total of United’s chances through the first 45 minutes.

After the break not much changed and the Revs quickly had another dangerous opportunity to double the lead when Nguyen’s screaming drive from 22 yards narrowly flashed over the crossbar. After that let off, United started to slowly turn the tempo of the match to their favor and started gaining more possession and with that came more opportunities to level the match. In the 56th minute United nearly tied the match when Fabian Espindola somehow worked his way to the end line under heavy pressure and floated a cross to the back post where Rolfe’s one-timer eluded the Revolution’s charging goalkeeper Bobby Shuttlesworth but couldn’t get past defender Chris Tierney who cleared the shot out of danger.

The Revolution were made to pay for their conservative approach in settling for the 1-0 lead and United equalized in the 70th minute. The same combination of Espindola to Rolfe this time was successful when Espindola’s right-footed cross floated over the entire Revolution defense and right onto the foot of Rolfe who easily tucked in the volley to level the match at 1-1.

United, despite not playing very well in the heat and humidity for most of the match, had a golden opportunity to go for the win when substitute Miguel Aguilar came up with the games biggest play. Aguilar was a breath of fresh air as he instantly pumped life into United’s attack and when he made a run towards the upper corner of the penalty area in the 80th minute, he was clumsily clattered into by former Georgetown midfielder Steve Neumann right on the edge of the penalty area. Referee Ismail Elfath didn’t hesitate to point to the penalty spot and Chris Rolfe calmly pushed the ball to Shuttleworth’s left and into the goal for second goal of the game and team-leading sixth goal of the season.

The victory for United was the fifth this season after allowing the opening goal of the game. United had won one total match the past two seasons combined when going behind by a goal. Up next for United is a midweek match up in Chicago to take on the Fire on Wednesday night at 8:30 pm EST. The match will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet.

United Notes

  • Chris Pontius was slated to start the match at left midfield but was pulled during pregame warm ups with a slight calf issue. The move was precautionary according to Ben Olsen after the match
  • Davy Arnaud picked up a yellow card and will be suspended for the game in Chicago on Wednesday. Arnaud will be eligible to return next Saturday night in Toronto

 

U.S. Open Cup: Late goals push United past Pittsburgh in extra time

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 17th, 2015 – D.C. United left it late but eventually overcame the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3-1 this evening at jam-packed Highmark Stadium behind  goals from Kofi Opare and Nick DeLeon in the first extra time period.

With an important Eastern Conference match against New England on Sunday night, United head coach Ben Olsen decided to play every eligible (and non-injured) reserve player tonight and a few first-team regulars and it seemed to work initially as United pounced early for a 1-0 lead.

Luis Silva’s corner kick in the 8th minute was flicked on at the near post by Conor Doyle to the back post where Facundo Coria had the easiest of tap-ins to stake United to a 1-0 lead.

However the lead did not last long and it was a mistake from Kofi Opare in the 24th minute that gifted the third-division USL side a penalty kick. Opare badly misplayed a routine clearance and allowed Kevin Kerr to cut in front of him just inside the penalty area and took him down.

Rob Vincent, the USL’s leading goal scorer, easily beat Andrew Dykstra to level the match at 1-1 from the spot. Although United were dangerous on set pieces their run of play was fractured and unbalanced. Having particularly bad evenings were Luis Silva and Jared Jeffrey as they both coughed the ball up routinely while not even under heavy pressure.

Their mistakes essentially fueled the Riverhounds and all of their close chances at goal but Dykstra was up to the task.

After the break it was the Black-and-Red who started to stamp their authority on the match but could not come up with the key pass or shot to push them past their pesky counterparts.

All that changed however once the teams got to the first of two 15-minute extra time periods. Desperately wanting to avoid penalty kicks, United wasted no time jumping back into the lead as they scored two minutes after the restart. Jared Jeffrey’s corner kick was powered home by Opare and then United pushed it to a two-goal lead when Jairo Arietta’s floated cross met Nick DeLeon’s head for a perfect finish into the corner of the goal and a finish to the match.

United will now wait until tomorrow afternoon to learn their 5th Round opponent in the Round-of-16 and where the game will be played.

United will return to action this Sunday afternoon when the welcome the New England Revolution to town at 5pm. The match will be shown on ESPN2.