In a battle between two teams with players absent for a variety of reasons, D.C. United triumphed 1-0 over the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium in their latest MLS fixture thanks to a goal in second-half stoppage time from Chris Pontius.
The Black-and-Red faced an opponent they had not beaten since 2009, but the visitors had some depth issues with Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane and Jaime Penedo all away on international duty. Meanwhile, the hosts had injury and unavailability problems of their own, although with Miguel Aguilar’s work permit now secured he was eligible for selection again.
The home side’s goal when it came was a product of some good teamwork, with the ball finding the net with just over 30 seconds remaining before the final whistle. Nick DeLeon broke down the right and was fed by a deliciously weighted pass from Davy Arnaud that left the Galaxy defense flat-footed. After some trickery, DeLeon lofted a ball into the six-yard box that Pontius managed to get his head on and steer home to secure a vital victory.
It could have been so different for United, who saw one of 2014’s star rookies, defender Steven Birnbaum, go down with an ankle problem inside the first five minutes and be replaced by former Galaxy defender Kofi Opare.
However, the game itself was very open in the early stages, albeit with neither side able to truly create a clear-cut opening for themselves on a blustery and unseasonably chilly night at venerable RFK. DeLeon had a good chance himself in the first 30 minutes after a good through ball from Jairo Arrieta, but was guilty of scuffing his first touch.
Minutes later, Arrieta had an opportunity of his own as he latched on to a long ball from Perry Kitchen and started to bear down on goal. After some good interchanged with the overlapping Sean Franklin, Arrieta fired in a shot from the right side that Brian Rowe spilled slightly but managed to gather at the second attempt.
Then, with the halftime break beckoning, Bill Hamid was twice called into action to keep the home side in the game. First, he saved a header from Alan Gordon low down, then he gathered Baggio Husidic’s low shot from just inside the box on the stroke of the whistle to keep the scores level at the break.
In the early stages of the second half, the Galaxy could so easily have had a goal as a corner caused havoc in United’s penalty area before Leonardo sent a shot just wide of the net. That would prove to be the Brazilian’s last real action, as he slipped in making his shot and injured himself, meaning that Dan Gargan was introduced in his place.
Those chances seemed to energise the hosts, with Pontius seeing Rowe cling on to a header right on the line, but then Stefan Ishizaki hit the post from outside the area for the Galaxy with a curling shot.
Jose Villarreal then had a good opportunity to score himself with a direct free kick that Hamid held well, and in the closing stages it looked as though both sides would come away with only a point having both had chances but being unable to put them away.
However, Pontius’ first goal of the season made all the difference for United, who did not have to hold the lead for too long until the final whistle and saw their record this season improve to 2-1 thanks to two consecutive home victories to start 2015. With so many players still out, especially in the forward positions with the likes of Luis Silva, Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson on the sidelines, it was an especially satisfying result.
It already puts United right in the thick of the race for the Eastern Conference playoffs, and they next travel to face expansion side Orlando City SC hoping to erase the poor away form that saw them go down to a convincing 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls.
DCU — Chris Pontius (Nick DeLeon) 90’+3’
DCU — Davy Arnaud (caution, foul) 46’
DCU — Bobby Boswell (caution, foul) 89’
D.C. United XI: Hamid; Franklin, Boswell, Birnbaum (Opare 5’), Kemp; DeLeon, Arnaud, Kitchen, Rolfe (Farfan 78’); Arrieta (Doyle 82’), Pontius.
Subs not used: Dykstra, Korb, Jeffrey, Aguilar.
Los Angeles Galaxy XI: Rowe; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo (Gargan 57’), Rogers; Ishizaki, Juninho, Vayrynen (Buddle 72’), Husidic; Villarreal (Garcia 86’), Gordon.
Subs not used: Mitchell, Dunivant, Meyer, Maganto.