It was yet another late show from D.C. United, as a goal in second-half stoppage time secured them all three points away to Orlando City at the Citrus Bowl in Florida with a 1-0 win.
In the first half, United owed their clean sheet to goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who kept them in the game with several incredible saves to continue the form that saw him named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for 2014. However, in the second period it was the visitors who arguably had the best of the game, and missed a couple of glorious chances having been largely stale in attack in the opening 45 minutes.
Then, in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, the crucial goal came. Luis Silva had been brought on as a substitute for his first action of the 2015 season after injury, and had a free kick from about 20 yards out. The United forward curled one around the wall that Donovan Ricketts could not keep out of the Orlando goal, and secured the visitors all three points.
Before the start of the game, D.C. United’s official Twitter account sent out a Tweet that said that each save Hamid made in the game at the Citrus Bowl would benefit CentroNia, a charity based in Washington focused on bilingual education, especially for recent arrivals in the United States.
They would have been delighted to see the 24-year-old’s display in the first half as he singlehandedly kept United in the game with a series of superb saves. First, he denied overlapping defender Rafael Ramos, then Kevin Molino, who had both been played in behind by the influential Kaka. His coup de grace in the opening period came in its latter stages, as Hamid managed to get down in time to save substitute Cyle Larin’s header from close range and hold on to the ball.
With those chances, Orlando could so easily have been well in front, especially as they hit the crossbar through Molino just after the half-hour mark when he latched on to a fizzing cross from left-back Brek Shea that managed to evade every United defender tracking back.
Instead, the visitors went into the half level at 0-0, having been content to defend and break the game up with some physical play. With Steven Birnbaum missing from the heart of the defense for the next few weeks, Kofi Opare took his place alongside Bobby Boswell and was especially guilty of some tough fouls early on.
Having held out well, D.C. started to come into the game more as an attacking force at the end of the first half, having only had their first shot on target after the 40-minute mark. On the stroke of halftime, Chris Rolfe very nearly scored what would have been a spectacular goal with a looped volley from a cross by Jairo Arrieta, but the ball spiralled just wide of Donovan Ricketts’ far post.
In the second half, the away side had the much better chances and could so easily have taken the lead for themselves having been on the back foot for almost the entire first half. Before the hour mark, a cross came into the box that was deflected into the path of the onrushing Sean Franklin, but the right-back blazed over the bar with his first-time shot inside the area when it may well have been easier to score.
Then in the 68th minute came United’s best chance of the evening, who were left flabbergasted that they were unable to find the net. Substitute Conor Doyle had a shot from outside the penalty area spilled into the path of Chris Pontius by Ricketts, and Pontius’ follow-up shot looked destined to nestle into the net. However, Shea managed to perform some gymnastics on the line to hack the ball clear, then Doyle had a header tipped over the bar by the recovering Ricketts.
It was one of the best chances of the game for either side and was only prevented from being a goal by Shea’s excellence on the line, but United would be rewarded for their persistence late on after holding on against some sustained City pressure.
Silva’s free kick late on was the perfect way to draw the game to an end for D.C., although Orlando almost had a goal of their own from a free kick by Carlos Rivas that went just wide.
It was the ultimate smash and grab from United, who owe a great debt of gratitude to Hamid’s excellence in goal as he kept them in the game. Orlando, meanwhile, had enough chances to win the game several times over but could not take advantage, and were left to lament a late free kick from Silva that secured the visitors all three points.
DCU — Luis Silva 90’+1’
OCSC — Kevin Molino (caution, handball) 27’
DCU — Davy Arnaud (caution, foul) 60’
OCSC — Darwin Ceren (caution, foul) 65’
OCSC — Carlos Rivas (caution, foul) 83’
Orlando City SC XI: Ricketts; Ramos (Rochez 90’+3’), Collin, Hines, Shea; Okugo, Ceren, Molino, Kaka, Avila (Rivas 71’); Ribeiro (Larin 22’).
Subs not used: Edwards, St. Ledger, Boden, Heath.
D.C. United XI: Hamid; Franklin, Opare, Boswell, Kemp; DeLeon (Farfan HT), Kitchen, Arnaud, Rolfe (Silva 76’); Pontius, Arrieta (Doyle 54’).
Subs not used: Dykstra, Korb, Jeffrey, Aguilar.