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Espindola rescues a point for United in 1-1 draw with Colorado

Washington, D.C., March 20, 2016 – D.C. United is still without a victory in 2016 but Fabian Espindola’s 80th minute strike salvaged a point in the home opening 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids tonight at RFK Stadium.

In a match that has come to define both teams in recent seasons, it wasn’t exactly Barca vs Real Madrid but the final twenty minutes had plenty of action that saw both teams earn a point. United (0-1-2, 2 points) fell behind on a Dillon Powers header in the 69th minute against the run of play. Although United had managed the tempo of the match to their liking through the first hour, it was once again set piece marking, or lack there of, that put United behind. Just a minute before the Rapids got the opener, United should have taken the lead when Lamar Neagle set up Steve Birnbaum beautifully in front of goal only to see his volley rocket over the goal.

On the ensuing run down the other end of the field Marco Pappa swung in a corner and Powers simply out hustled United and got to the ball first as Travis Worra was helpless to react in goal. It is the first goal Worra has given up in MLS, his second consecutive start and third game overall. Perhaps more ominous, it was the third set piece goal given up by United so far in three matches.

United responded well to the deficit and equalized in the 80th minute through substitute Fabian Espindola. Espindola, who has had a rather busy week after welcoming the birth of a daughter on Tuesday, got United level by finishing off a harried sequence in the penalty area after great initial service from left back Taylor Kemp.

The Maryland graduate whipped in his trademark left-footed cross that was misplayed by fellow Maryland alum goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the area where Patrick Nyarko pounced and sent a shot goal bound. Unfortunately former United defender Marc Burch nicely saved the ball off the line only to see it bounce straight to Espindola who took one touch before rifling a right-footed shot into the goal for his first goal of the season.

United very nearly took the lead just two minutes later when Espindola ripped a shot just over the crossbar from a tight angle and then set up Alvaro Saborio with a header attempt in front of goal only to see the shot weakly hit into the arms of MacMath.

Up next for United is a match on Saturday afternoon when FC Dallas comes to town. Both squads will be missing players for World Cup qualifiers being played over the next ten days.

United Notes

  • US goalkeeper Tim Howard was in the house today as he announced his signing with the Colorado Rapids, effective after the Premier League season ends in May. Howard will be eligible to play for the Rapids once the summer transfer window opens in June
  • United will be missing defender Steve Birnbaum (USA) and most likely forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) for their match on Saturday against FC Dallas. FC Dallas will be missing up to seven players for World Cup qualifiers as well as the USA U-23 teams two-leg knockout round with Colombia starting early next week

United advance to Semi-finals after frenzied 2-1 win over the Revolution

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.

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.

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.

 

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

 

Sebastian Giovinco, TFC, End United’s RFK Streak With 2-1 Win: Match Gallery

DC United’s 20 game unbeaten streak at RFK came to an end at the hands of Sebastian Giovinco and Toronto FC. TFC defeated the Black-and-Red 2-1 in front of 17,105 fans at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Photos: Martin Fernandez.

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Sebastian Giovinco (right) scored a pair of highlight-reel goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium before a season-high 17, 105 disappointed fans. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United’s 20-game unbeaten run at RFK ends with 2-1 loss to Toronto FC

Washington D.C., June 6, 2015 – Sebastian Giovinco (right) scored a pair of highlight-reel goals to lead Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium before a season-high 17, 105 disappointed fans. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

The loss for United (8-4-4, 28 points) was their first at RFK since dropping a 1-0 decision to the Seattle Sounders on June 28th of last season, nearly a full calendar year. Toronto (6-5-1, 19 points) came into the match missing two of it’s high-priced Designated Players in Michael Bradley (away on International duty with U.S.) and Jozy Altidore (injured but made a late game appearance) but it was the third and arguably most talented of the trio that did the damage tonight.

United turned the tables on their recent form of starting matches slow out of the gate and should have been up 2-0 inside the first six minutes of the match. Fabian Espindola’s 22-yard angled chip to the far post easily eluded TFC goalkeeper Chris Konopka but hit the post and bounded away. However, just a minute later United were ahead thanks once again to Espindola. His corner kick was volleyed into the net from six yards by defender Steve Birngbaum for his first-ever MLS goal and the early 1-0 lead.

That was pretty much the extent of United’s danger on the night. Toronto quickly regained the tempo and took it to the Black-and-Red and if not for a number of good saves from Andrew Dykstra (filling in for a hobbled Bill Hamid for a second straight match) the match could have gotten quickly out of hand. It was the “Atomic Ant” Giovinco who ultimately would be the difference. Right from the start United didn’t seem to have anyone capable of shutting down the diminutive Italian forward.

Giovinco leveled the match in the 34th minute when he received a pass deep inside United’s penalty area. Sean Franklin quickly got in position to defend him, or so we were lead to believe, but he was easily spun out of position and Giovinco fired just past the head of Dykstra from a tough angle for his sixth goal of the season.

After the break United regained control of the match but as has been the case for most of the season, United struggled to break down TFC’s compact defense. The final ball was severely lacking all game long as United didn’t even register a shot on goal for the second half of play despite dominating possession. TFC took a page from United’s recent playbook in coming from behind and winning when Giovinco scored a stunning game-winning goal in the 83rd minute. A very lazy turnover from substitute Luis Silva just inside United’s half of the field powered the counter attack for the winning strike. Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou easily dispossessed Silva and spotted Giovinco who turned and ran directly at United’s goal. With Bobby Boswell in retreat Giovinco unleashed a 30-yard blast the easily beat Dykstra to give the visitors the shock 2-1 lead.

United did put forth a decent effort to try and get the equalizer and they should have had it in the 90th minute but could not come up with the final touch to get it done. Goalkeeper Chris Konopka came out to challenge Birnbaum on a free kick and whiffed on the clearance. The loose ball fell right to Silva who’s rushed angled attempt failed badly. The ball fell into the path of Davy Arnaud who took a settling touch but his left-footed attempt to strike also whiffed and United was out of chances after that as the visitors easily killed off the remainder of stoppage time.

United has now ended their most brutal string of games they had to play this season in a 7-games in 25-day stretch. With constant shuffling of the lineups due to injury, short rest and suspensions, United actually managed to increase their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference but will look at tonight’s match against a weakened TFC as an opportunity lost to increase their lead.

United now will finally have a full week of training ahead of their match a week from Sunday in Orlando against the Lions. This match will be televised live on FoxSports1 at 7pm EST.

 

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

Espindola return sparks United to 3-1 win over Chicago

Washington, D.C., June 4 – Jairo Arreita bagged two goals and Fabian Espindola dished out two assists as D.C. United stormed back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to race past the Chicago Fire in last night’s 3-1 victory at RFK Stadium. Conor Doyle added his first goal of the season to complete United’s fourth win of the season after giving up the opening goal. United (8-3-4, 28 points) only won one match last season after giving up the first goal and have extended their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over the New England Revolution.

For what seems to be an alarming trend recently, United started out slowly once again and were in trouble in the 26th minute when Steve Birnbaum inexplicably reached out and handled a ball in the penalty area as United were under pressure. Birnbaum got the start at an unfamiliar left-back as Taylor Kemp and Chris Korb were both unavailable due to injury. Bill Hamid and Chris Pontius also did not suit up for United who were already missing Chris Rolfe due to a suspension.

Jeff Larentowicz stepped up to take the penalty but Andrew Dykstra made an incredible diving save to his right to keep out the goal-bound shot. Bobby Boswell and Markus Halsti both snapped to attention and swept the ball out of play before any Fire player could pounce on the rebound. United thought they were off the hook but just 60 seconds later the Fire would take the lead when Quincy Amarikwa’s pass from the left flank found speedy striker David Accam and the Ghanaian’s one-touch redirect flashed past Dykstra for a 1-0 lead.

United once again failed to create much of anything through the first half and most of it had to do with yet another batch of changes to the lineup as United are at the tail end of a 5-game in 15-day stretch of play. Head coach Ben Olsen though had a few tricks up his sleeve and the biggest and best one was named Fabian Espindola who was making his return back to the team after sitting out a month with a deep bruise to his knee.

Espindola came on after the break the tone of the match changed completely as United seemed more focused and picked up their pace of play. That urgency paid off in the 61st minute when Espindola’s perfectly whipped in cross from a corner kick met the head of Arrieta who snapped a header inside the far post to level match at 1-1. Just eight minutes later United would take the lead for good with a bit a good fortune. Arrieta was attempting a give-and-go with Nick DeLeon deep in the Fire’s penalty area when defender Lovel Palmer seemed to have thwarted the dangerous combination. However, the Jamiacan’s sliding challenge redirected the ball right back to Arrieta who’s one-time right footed blast easily beat Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch. The goal was the fifth of the season for Arrieta who has taken the team lead over Chris Rolfe in scoring.

Not to be undone, Espindola performed one more piece of magic to wrap up the night for United. In the 75th minute Espindola found himself deep in Fire territory hugging the left sideline. The crafty Argentine spotted a far post run from Conor Doyle and unleashed a worm-burner pass that hit Doyle just as he flashed in front of his defensive challenger and right in front of goal. Busch could only get a slight touch on the fall before the shot hit the roof of the net.

With United firmly in control, they saw out the remainder of the match with little difficulty as United cruised to back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Vancouver and Columbus a month ago.

Next up for United is a home match against Toronto FC this Saturday night at 7pm. This will be the end of United’s most grueling stretch of games of the season to date. United will most likely have most of their squad available as the injuries that forced Olsen’s changes tonight were a mixture of precaution and knowledge of another Eastern Conference game just three days away.