D.C. United’s unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer is now at five games after a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a topsy-turvy encounter at BC Place.
The hosts took the lead just a couple of minutes into the game through Pedro Morales, who found himself in acres of space after collecting a cross from Octavio Rivero and finished well as he lobbed United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra.
However, they would not be ahead for long as Bobby Boswell came forward from defense and was on hand in the penalty area to head home Michael Farfan’s cross from the left-hand side. With just nine minutes on the clock, the game was already tied 1-1 and looking set to be an intriguing game.
United would take the lead midway through the second half thanks to the marauding Chris Rolfe, playing up front alongside the returning Fabian Espindola. Rolfe picked up the ball and played an inadvertent one-two off Whitecaps defender Steven Beitashour’s shins as he tackled Chris Pontius. Rolfe then surprised Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted with a first-time half-volley that whistled home and gave the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Espindola caused the most problems for Vancouver on his return from a six-game suspension in the league, as he saw Ousted tip a low shot of his just wide in the second half in what was his best chance of the evening. He also set up Michael Farfan in the first period after a bad giveaway, but the midfielder chipped just over the bar as he came forward.
The Argentine caused so many issues for the Whitecaps that he contributed to Matias Laba’s sending off in the first half for a second bookable offence. Espindola looked to move forward into some space around the halfway line, but was caught by Laba as he tried to catch up, and left referee David Gantar no choice but to eject him.
Rolfe also looked strong in attack, with Jairo Arrieta on the bench, and had a shot from distance blocked away by Ousted. Just a minute later, Vancouver went up the other end and saw Mauro Rosales hit the post as the game became more end-to-end in nature.
United would have been delighted to be so competitive away from home, having lost left-back Taylor Kemp just minutes before kickoff with illness and with regular center midfielder Davy Arnaud left at home with a groin injury.
Things became more complicated for the visitors early in the second half as Dykstra was forced off with a leg injury, to be replaced by rookie third-string goalkeeper Travis Worra, only called up from his loan spell at the Richmond Kickers in USL due to another injury to first-choice Bill Hamid.
However, the undrafted former University of New Hampshire stopper looked comfortable in his MLS debut, and with both Hamid and Dykstra seemingly struggling, he may well find himself pressed into further action in the coming games.
The pressure was really on in the closing 10 minutes as the home side desperately searched for an equalizer, with Ousted joining the attack for corner kicks. However, in spite of a hairy moment late on that saw Sam Adekugbe scuff a shot just wide after Worra spilled a cross, United held on for a victory and are now unbeaten in five games.
It was a disappointing result for Vancouver on their home field, given that they came into the game atop the strong Western Conference and also leading the way in the Supporters’ Shield. However, United managed to pull out a win and stay in touch with the leaders at the top of the Eastern Conference, behind the New England Revolution on goal difference but with a game in hand.
After their long trip north of the border, D.C. now have three straight home games in MLS, a perfect opportunity early in the season to rack up more points and keep themselves near the top of their conference.
VWFC — Pedro Morales (Octavio Rivero, Steven Beitashour) 2’
DCU — Bobby Boswell (Michael Farfan) 9’
DCU — Chris Rolfe 64’
VWFC — Pedro Morales (caution, excessive celebration) 2’
VWFC — Sam Adekugbe (caution, foul) 9’
VWFC — Matias Laba (caution, handball) 34’
VWFC — Matias Laba (second caution, foul, ejection) 42’
DCU — Perry Kitchen (caution, foul) 84’
DCU — Michael Farfan (caution, foul) 88’
Vancouver Whitecaps FC XI: Ousted; Beitashour, Waston, Modou Kah, Adekugbe; Teibert (Manneh 70’), Laba, M. Rosales (Techera 76’), P. Morales, Mattocks (Koffie HT); Rivero.
Subs not used: Tornaghi, Harvey, Earnshaw, Mezquida.
D.C. United XI: Dykstra (Worra 58’); Franklin, Boswell, Opare, Korb; DeLeon, Kitchen, Farfan, Pontius (Doyle 90’); Espindola, Rolfe (Silva 76’).
Subs not used: Jeffrey, Arrieta.