December 10, 2019

D.C. United Game 32 Recap: United finally end Houston home dominance

WIN PUTS UNITED ON BRINK OF TOP SEED IN EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS

Much of the 2014 Major League Soccer season has been spent comparing this year’s D.C. United to last year’s, two teams who couldn’t be more distant in terms of ability and results. But on Sunday, United finally accomplished something it never had previously, winning in Houston, 3-1. The victory lifted United to 16-9-7 on the season, and D.C.’s 55 points leave the club six points clear of Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution with two matches left for all three teams. United are a point away from clinching home field throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Dynamo, who slipped to 11-15-6 (39 points) were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. The defeat also took away one fact that Houston had been able to hold over United’s head for years – the Dynamo’s home dominance of D.C. The streak had covered 10 league matches, during which the best United had managed was a draw … just one lone draw. Fabian Espindola’s expert chip over the head of Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric gave United a 2-0 lead in the second half and that ended up being the key goal. Houston closed within 2-1 on a Giles Barnes penalty kick, but Eddie Johnson put the game away with his goal in the 87th minute.

Espindola’s goal was a beautiful disaster for Houston, as the Dynamo became victims of their own attack. Espindola ran on to a United clearance out of its defensive third. The ball was hit hard enough that it bypassed the entire Dynamo team, and Espindola reached it first, putting him in alone on Deric. As the goalkeeper charged out on Espindola, the United forward lofted a perfect chip from 19 yards that landed just beyond the goal line and made it 2-0.

The goal lifted United’s spirits and eventually vaulted the team to a key victory. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a key save minutes earlier that had kept D.C. in front. and had Houston scored there, the Dynamo may not have pressed so many players forward just before the Espindola goal, and that strike may never have happened.

But it did, and with it United ended a woeful history of defeat in Houston. Much like 2013, the Houston streak can be forgotten. Now, United can focus on its regular-season home finale, vs. Chicago next Saturday at 7 p.m.

THE GOOD: Beyond just the win in Houston, seeing United put home three goals is a welcome sign as the playoffs approach. United now have 49 goals on the season.

THE BAD: Ismail Elfath’s penalty call on United defender Sean Franklin was a gong show. Ricardo Clark drew the foul, locked up with Franklin in the area then falling forward, taking Franklin with him. Somehow, that was determined to be Franklin taking Clark down and Barnes brought Houston to within 2-1 with the ensuing kick from the spot.

THE UGLY: A lightning delay in the first half interrupted proceedings in the 23rd minute. It rained significantly for parts of the first half prior to the delay.

NOTES: United now have as many wins this season as it had points all of last year (16). … Espindola’s goal was his 10th of the season, giving United a pair of double-figure scorers on the season. Luis Silva has 11. … Taylor Kemp’s goal that opened the scoring was the first of his MLS career. … Johnson’s goal was the 70th of his MLS career.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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