Union escape with draw after wild finish in D.C.
To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dwayne De Rosario stepped to the circle, hoping to put his D.C. United squad ahead by a goal in the final minutes of Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Union.
De Rosario, one of the best players in the history of MLS and certainly one of the most clutch, had just buried a penalty kick moments earlier. But the goal didn’t count because D.C. teammate Hamdi Salihi charged into the box too early.
Now, the D.C. United star was asked to score again. And some Union players took the stoppage in play to try to get into his head.
“When he spotted it, I told him that [goalie Zac MacMath] already knows you’re going left,” Philly center back Amobi Okugo said. “Then Carlos [Valdes] was calling his name and Zac was pointing which way he was going to go.”
The head games worked as De Rosario’s second PK sailed over the net and the Union escaped RFK Stadium with a 1-1 draw in one of the wildest games of their season.
“You gotta do anything to try to get points,” Okugo said. “Luckily, it worked in our favor.”
After De Rosario’s missed PK — which was set up after Union sub Roger Torres was whistled for a foul in the box on D.C. All-Star Chris Pontius – the game got even crazier. D.C. United’s Branko Boskovic was shown a red card and then so was Emiliano Dudar, giving Philly a short-lived two-man advantage.
It was short-lived because Sheanon Williams was given a second yellow and sent off – a call Union manager John Hackworth was not happy about.
In general, Hackworth didn’t care for all of the cards, fouls and fights in the final few minutes, even though D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen said he liked how it added juice to an already heated rivalry.
“My opinion is when two teams play each other it should be about soccer,” the Union manager said. “It should be about good soccer in all ways. And I don’t think that was the last five minutes. Maybe it’s great for TV. Maybe it gets people all excited, but that wasn’t what the game was supposed to be about in my opinion.”
What Hackworth was pleased about was the result – even though the Union let a one-goal lead slip away in a game where a win would have gone a long way toward bringing them back into the playoff picture.
The Union (7-12-3) are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points – 13 points behind D.C. United (11-8-4), who currently hold the fifth and final playoff spot.
“A point on the road in this league is really important,” Hackworth said. “And we haven’t had that. For us to get a point on the road, no matter all the craziness, it’s important for the team.”
For a time, though, the Union thought they’d be able to come back up I-95 with three points in their pocket.
In the eighth minute, the Union jumped ahead on a goal from Brian Carroll, who's made a habit of scoring against D.C. United on the road.
Carroll was in the right place at the right time to give the visitors the early lead, jumping on a ball right at the goal line after it got pinballed around the box following a Freddy Adu free kick.
It was Carroll’s third goal against D.C. United in the past two years, including U.S. Open Cup fixtures. To put that in perspective, he’s only scored six goals in league play in his entire 10-year career.
“He loves scoring against D.C., his old team,” Hackworth said. “It was good for him to get one and that was an important one. But I’m kind of amazed we didn’t put a second one in the back of the net. It would have been a much different story."
It certainly would have, and the Union had their chances in the first half, creating a lot of space in the offensive third while holding form defensively. In the 31st minute, both Williams and Adu both had close-range shots stopped by D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid, and in the 38th minute Adu made a nifty move to split defenders before feeding it to Jack McInerney, whose header went high.
“Honestly, I think we feel like we could have put the game away in the first half,” Okugo said.
But they didn’t, and the hosts made them pay. And the game-tying goal happened in brutally tough fashion for Philly as Okugo – who has played exceptionally well as a converted defender – hit the ball into his own goal on a Boskovic free kick in the 71st minute.
Okugo said there was a miscommunication between him and MacMath on the play.
“I was trying to cover him and it hit off my hand and it went in,” he said. “Maybe I’ve got to be more demanding on my part and take out Zac if need be, or he’s got to take me out just to be safe back there.”
That game-tying goal came a few minutes after D.C. United scored another goal that was nullified, this one in the 64th minute.
After MacMath made a brilliant save on De Rosario, Nick DeLeon banged in a rebound attempt. But the referee had blown his whistle just before the goal, calling a questionable foul on Salihi for kicking the ball while MacMath was on the ground and looking to retain possession.
It was not the only questionable call on the night, but certainly one of the most important in a game that turned out to be both physical and controversial.
“That’s what it feels like to be in a rivalry,” Okugo said. “It was good. It’s fun to be in those games.”
Almost lost in the shuffle were the storylines surrounding Lionard Pajoy and Danny Cruz. Four days ago, D.C. United sent Cruz to Philly in exchange for Pajoy, and both got starts for their new teams Sunday.
For D.C. United, Pajoy headed a shot right on target in the 11th minute, forcing MacMath to make the save. And in stoppage time of the first half, Adu made a big stop off the goal line to stop another pinpoint Pajoy header.
Meanwhile, Cruz was mostly effective as part of a three-man frontline, until coming out because of minor leg cramps in the 57th minute.
“Danny played well,” Hackworth said. “For him to come in, it was an extremely emotional game for him obviously. But he did what we needed him to do.”Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for CSNPhilly.com and MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.