D.C. United and the Portland Timbers battled to a 1-1 draw tonight at Jeld-Wenn Field in Portland, Oregon. The point for United extends their late-season unbeaten run to four matches and builds a bit of a cushion on their current fourth place position in the Eastern C0nference with three matches to go in the season.
On a night when United received little help from their adjacent playoff pursuers (Red Bull, Houston and Columbus all won home matches), United did themselves the slightest of favors by at least extending their lead over Houston and Columbus to two and three points respectively. Red Bull’s 4-1 win drew them level with Chicago (who lost on Friday night to Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City) but technically ahead by virtue of MLS’ tie-breaking procedure of Goals Scored as the decider. Chicago however does have a game in hand on Red Bull, which will be played in New York next weekend.
Chris Pontius’ controversial 60th-minute penalty conversion gave the Black-and-Red brief hope of extending their winning streak to four matches in the absence of injured captain Dwayne De Rosario. However, Portland did find the equalizer when Bright Dike struck a narrow angled shot into the roof of the net after a defensive scramble in United’s penalty area in the 79th minute.
The goal for Pontius started on a quick throw-in that caught the Timbers napping and left Perry Kitchen all alone deep down the right sideline. The second-year man from Akron crossed a ball that took the slightest of touches off the extended underarm of Portland defender David Horst before it was safely cleared out of the penalty area by Portland. The assistant referee right in line with the play made the penalty call as referee Michael Kennedy was unaware of the play.
Pontius stepped up and blasted his team-leading 12th goal of the season past Portland’s goalkeeper for the 1-0 lead against the run of play. Portland, surged on by a conceived wrong doing from the officials, started putting numbers forward but rarely put any meaningful shots on against United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. That ended in the 79th minute when a poor clearance from Andy Najar started the goal scoring sequence. Portland left-back Steven Smith’s overlapping run and subsequent cross was stopped by Najar right in front of Hamid. While on the ground, Najar attempted a clearance that Dike picked off and took towards the end line. Just as Dejan Jakovic was closing to block the tough-angled shot, Dike lifted it over the shoulder of Hamid and into the roof of the net to level the match at 1-1.
United brought on a few subs to help alleviate the pressure that the Timbers were forcing forward and nearly had a few opportunities of their own to take back the lead but it was not to be.
United now will turn their attention to a very winnable road match in Toronto next weekend. Toronto is currently on an 11-game win less streak and seems the perfect opportunity for United to bolster their chances at making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.