At some point this season the Law of Averages will catch up to D.C. United. Tonight was not that night as United pulled off another improbable comeback, this time from two goals down with 13 minutes left to play to gain a 2-2 draw away to league leaders Chivas USA.
Luciano Emilio’s 77th minute redirection of a Santino Quaranta shot pulled United to within a goal at 2-1. Quaranta than leveled the match with a Goal of the Year candidate in the form of a 30 yard daisycutter that gave the previously inpenetrable Zach Thornton no chance. This is United’s fourth comeback in their past six MLS matches to gain points when they were trailing late in the match.
All did not start well however for the Black and Red as they were thoroughly outplayed in the first 45 minutes by the home side and they took the lead in the 25th minute through a very controversial non-call by the assistant referee. Mykel Galindo, making his first MLS start in over a calender year, beat United’s offside trap and easily dispatched past the fallen Louis Crayton. Replays clearly showed that Galindo was at least a step offside on the play and the non-call enraged the United sidelines. United started to settle into the match and were just about to head to the locker room down only by the disputed goal. However a frantic sequence in United’s penalty area resulted in Chivas USA’s second goal.
Louis Crayton did well initially to punch away a cross but his second bite at the apple was fruitless as he waved at air on the ensuing cross and Attiba Harris pounced on the loose ball and sent a cross towards the open net for Mexican striker Eduardo Lillingston to head past the slow reacting United defense and send Chivas USA to halftime with a 2-0 lead.
United subbed in midfielder Fred to start the second half and right away the team started to press the issue. United was unable to take advantage of their new found confidence as Chivas USA’s defense held firm. Christian Gomez was the next sub to come in and he too injected a bit of life into United only to see Jaime Moreno’s semi-breakaway fall away easily when he decided to try and lay off to Emilio instead of taking the better option of going straight in on Thornton. The cracks were starting to show however when Emilio pounced on a Quaranta shot from distance and found himself alone on top of Thornton. The Brazilian tried to beat the beefy American to the short side but Thornton was up to the task making his best save of the night.
Just a few minutes later though the game would change and United’s recent discovery of their ability to pull results out of losses kicked in. Quaranta got hold of a ball in the right channel and made a beautiful hesitation move on Paolo Nagamura which froze the midfielder and gave Quaranta enough time to unleash a shot. The opportunistic Emilio stuck out his foot and redirected it off the far post to halve the deficit.
United then got the equalizer in stunning fashion through the reborn Quaranta. Rodney Wallace played a whipped ball into the six-yard box that Thornton punched away when a simple catch would have sufficed. The clearance ricocheted towards the Highlandtown native and he unleashed a 30 yard shot that never got two inches off the ground and swerved into the far side netting to tie the match at 2-2. Questions of offside were raised on the replay as it seemed that Christian Gomez might have touched the ball on it’s way into the goal. However replays clearly showed Gomez onside when the shot was taken and United walked out of the Home Depot Center with two draws on the season after two very bad losses last season to both Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
United will now return home to play New York Red Bull in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier match on Wednesday evening with the winner advancing to the third round of the tournament proper. United also has a league match at RFK on Saturday night against Real Salt Lake.
– Ben Olsen was substituted after only 6 minutes played. Olsen was carrying a hamstring injury into the match and the decison to allow him to play with only minimal training seemed a strange decision.
– United gains their sixth tie of the season. United only had four all of last season.
– United is unbeaten in six MLS matches and seven matches overall, matching their high from last season.
– With the two late goals United still has yet to be shut out this season in MLS play. At this stage last season United had been shut out a staggering five times in 10 matches.