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.