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.