D.C. United tried their best to give away all the points in the first half against the Houston Dynamo, but a second half push earned the Black-and-Red a 2-2 draw at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Luciano Acosta, in his first start of the season, scored in the 97th minute, giving United a precious point, after they had picked up only one point in the first two games of the season.
Two first half gaffes from United gave Houston the lead, as Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas pounced on opportunities to punish the Black-and-Red. Amid flurries at the SoccerPlex, United pushed hard in the second half to get back into the game, and got their hope in the 50th minute, when Darren Mattocks netted his second goal of the season.
After fielding the same starting lineup the past two weeks, Head Coach Ben Olsen made two changes to the 11 on Saturday. Paul Arriola and Oniel Fisher dropped to the bench, as Acosta got the nod as the attacking midfielder, and new signing Joseph Mora was handed a start, after receiving his clearance to play this week.
United really needed to pick up three points in their first of two home games before July, after only picking up a point on the road in games against Orlando City SC and Atlanta United. But two self inflicted wounds in the first half made United’s task all the more difficult.
The teams exchanged chances in the first half hour of the game, but neither team came close to scoring. Mattocks had United’s best chance, but sent a header from a free kick right to keeper Chris Seitz. On the other end, Eric Alexander smashed a shot from distance that whizzed just over David Ousted’s goal in the 23rd minute.
But in the 30th minute, disaster struck for D.C., when Yamil Asad attempted to head back to Ousted from well outside his own box. Elis quickly pounced on the ball, and flicked the ball over the onrushing Ousted. With a full steam ahead, Elis got onto the flick on the other side of Ousted, and prodded home under pressure for a 1-0 lead.
A minute and 35 seconds later, and another mistake from United had Houston feeling themselves. Frederic Brillant tried to pass the ball in his own half to Mora, who had already turned his head up-field, never seeing the pass from the center back. Elis once again took advantage, quickly taking the ball into the box, and centering the ball into a crowd. The ball fell to Manotas, who did enough to get a shot past Ousted for the two goal advantage.
United had not acquitted themselves well in the first half, but within five minutes of the second half, were immediately back in the game. Asad and Mattocks exchanged passes on the left flank, helping to create an opening. Asad then fed Mattocks with a through ball into the box, allowing Mattocks to cut back towards goal against his defender. Mattocks took aim towards the far post, and fired a shot past Seitz to get United within a goal.
With United getting numbers forward to find an equalizer, Houston had their chances on the counter attack, where the Dynamo are especially dangerous. But in the 61st minute, Romell Quioto skipped a shot just wide after Elis broke forward. And in the 68th minute, Elis had a chance from the side of the box after a feed from Alexander, but the Honduran blasted the shot over the goal.
In the 73rd minute, a crucial intervention from DeMarcus Beasley kept Houston ahead. A through ball from Asad into the box found Mattocks, who quickly turned and crossed the ball towards the center of the box. Arriola, who came on to replace Zoltan Stieber, would have easily knocked the ball home, but Beasley made a last moment clearance to prevent Arriola scoring his first goal of the season.
United weren’t able to finish off two chances in the span of a minute late in the game, which seemed to extinguish United’s hopes on the day. A perfectly played long ball from substitute Chris Durkin found Asad beyond Houston’s back line, but his shot was saved by Seitz.
From the resulting corner, Steve Birnbaum won a header, and sent the ball goalwards, but a second header from Nick DeLeon, on the doorstep of the goal, was sent wide, as DeLeon had to try to find a path for the ball to get past Seitz.
Five minutes of stoppage time was awarded, but a Houston injury added even more time, giving time for United’s late heroics. Asad sent a free kick into the box, which Houston were able to get out of their box. Arriola headed the ball back into the box, where Brillant popped another header up. The ball fell into the path of Acosta, and although Seitz got a touch to the shot, it wasn’t enough to stop Acosta equalizing in the 97th minute of the game.
United, with two points from three games, start their three game road trip with a visit to take on Columbus Crew SC next Saturday.