Chris Pontius’ 93rd-minute header was the difference in D.C. United’s dramatic 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy tonight at frigid RFK Stadium. The win over the Galaxy was United’s first in ten league matches against their West coast rivals and first since a 4-1 win at RFK in June of 2008.
Both teams were playing shorthanded but for very different reasons. United (2-1-0, 6 points) was once again without their top player Fabian Espindola who is in the midst of his six-game suspension to start the season as well as Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva and Markus Halsti. Silva was deemed fit enough to play by head coach Ben Olsen after the match but felt holding him back in the brutally cold conditions was more sensible. To make matters worse for United, defender Steve Birnbaum injured his ankle just 90 seconds into the match and was forced off. Former Galaxy defender Kofi Opare replaced Birnbaum.
The Galaxy (1-1-2, 5 points) were without three of their top players in Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Jaime Penedo, all of whom were missing for international duty.
None the less a very scrappy match unfolded between the two most successful teams in MLS history as they share 9 of the 19 MLS Cup titles between them. United were closest to drawing first blood midway through the first half when Davy Arnaud’s diagonal ball over the weak side of the Galaxy defense hit Nick DeLeon in stride. DeLeon beat onrushing Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk to the ball but his first touch took him too far away from the open net and and the ensuing cross from DeLeon found teamate Jairo Arrieta but the Galaxy did well to scramble back into position to deny United a solid chance on goal.
As the first half wound down, the visitors started carving out some chances. The best of which was an Alan Gordon header from about eight yards out that would have beaten United goalkeeper Bill Hamid had it been either side of him. A few other half chances were easily dealt with by Hamid but it was the Galaxy who had the momentum heading into halftime.
After the break it was essentially more of what was on display in the first forty-five minutes with both sides taking turns attempting to wrestle the flow of the game from each other. United’s best chance up to this point in the match came off the head of Chris Pontius midway through the stanza as his point-blank chance was well saved by Perk to keep the game at 0-0.
As the match seemed destined for a final score of 0-0, a bit of magic happened late in stoppage time. In the last minute of stoppage time, Davy Arnaud chipped a ball deep into the Galaxy’s defensive half and DeLeon did well to out-hustle Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers and beat him to the ball. Once he got there DeLeon used a deft touch to elude Rogers and turned towards goal. DeLeon then lofted a ball to the far post where Pontius met the pass with a diving header with Galaxy defender Dan Gargan draped all over him. The ball settled into the near post and sent RFK Stadium into delirium as teammates mobbed DeLeon and Pontius and turned a draw into a win.
With the win United vaulted from 7th place into the top spot in the East (at least temporarily until all games are completed tonight) and now have six points from three matches. With the win, United now will turn their attention to the expansion Orlando City SC this Friday night in Orlando, Florida. Orlando City SC (1-1-2, 5 points) are coming off a 2-2 draw in Montreal earlier in the day.
- Midfielder Miguel Aguilar was cleared by the U.S. Government this week and received a renewal of his work permit and was available to play but did not make it off the bench
- Steve Birnbaum suffered a left-ankle sprain in the 2nd minute and was carted off the field. The severity of the injury is unknown at the moment. Don’t expect him back in the lineup anytime soon
- Silva is expected to be in the 18-man squad for the trip to Florida later this week
- No timetable has been given for the extended injuries to Eddie Johnson (heart ailment) and Markus Halsti (knee). Halsti was interviewed before the match on CSN Washington’s D.C. United pregame show and said his knee was getting better and hopes to be available soon