D.C. United had lost their best player just a few weeks earlier, Dwayne De Rosario suffering a likely season-ending knee injury while on Canadian national team duty. But they'd come together through the adversity and run off three straight wins, including one on the road, to fight their way back into playoff contention. Then came this West Coast trip to face the Portland Timbers. By this point, most of us knew what Ben Olsen had in store: lots of defending and looking to steal a goal at the other end. It had worked in Philadelphia two weeks prior, and for a while, it looked like it was going to work at Jeld-Wen Field, too.
After surviving a shaky first half allowed too many Timbers chances, United's luck struck at the hour mark. Perry Kitchen received a throw in deep in the right corner and sent a cross in for Lionard Pajoy at the top of the six-yard box. David Horst rose up to contest the cross, throwing his left arm out to gain more height on his jump. Kitchen's cross grazed the underside of Horst's outstretched arm, and both Kitchen and Pajoy immediately appealed for hand ball. After some delay, it was given, and Chris Pontius stepped up to convert the penalty, giving United a mostly undeserved lead.
It wasn't to last, though.A series of miscues from Andy Najar in the 79th minute gave Bright Dike the opportunity to equalize, and the Nigerian international found the roof of Bill Hamid's net from close range to do just that. United would escape with a point, establishing the midpoint of what would be the Black-and-Red's season-closing 7-match unbeaten run on their way to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Portland would finish outside of the playoff positions.
This time, though, despite being much earlier in the season, the tables are turned. The Timbers are riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, making Caleb Porter's "They will not beat us" mantra stick, while United haven't won in nine games, eight of them losses. But the team from Rose City have yet to beat the capital club since joining MLS in 2011. Here's hoping only that last run will continue tomorrow night.
What do you remember most from last season's meeting? Will it have any effect on tomorrow? Have your say in the comments.