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.