Chance after chance went awry for D.C. United in the second half against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night at Audi Field. It was only the 18th game of the season for the Black-and-Red, but it had the feel of a must win, given United’s position at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. Yet, despite their misses, United still had the advantage, thanks to Wayne Rooney’s first goal in MLS in the first half.
But this year, as United waited for their new home, the Black-and-Red have had their fair share of luck go against them. And as Kellyn Acosta broke in towards goal in the 82nd minute, an excellently placed finished leveled the scores, putting United’s backs against the wall.
Unlike games past though, D.C. were able to respond, and it was Ulises Segura’s cross, that deflected off of Niki Jackson’s shoulder, that snuck past Tim Howard in the 90th minute, handing United a crucial three points in a 2-1 victory.
“You make your own luck sometimes,” Head Coach Ben Olsen said in his press conference after the game.
United had a stroke of luck early in the game, when Acosta, recently acquired from FC Dallas, took a penalty that Junior Moreno conceded in the first half. Keeper David Ousted guessed the right way on the attempt, but the ball pummeled off the upright, keeping the game scoreless.
From there, it was only a matter of minutes before Rooney had his opening tally. United moved quickly after Moreno won possession at midfield, and Luciano Acosta slipped in Rooney, who rode past a challenge, and slipped the ball between the legs of Howard.
“One of the reasons why we brought him here was to score goals,” Olsen said of his high priced striker. “I’m sure it’s a relief for him to get a goal.”
Rooney wasn’t available to talk after the game, after he left the field late, as he picked up an injury defending a corner in stoppage time. Afterwards, the team said that Rooney had broken his nose, and needed five stitches to close up a wound over his left eye.
The striker never made it back out on the field, but seemed to be in good spirits in the locker room after the game. Blood was visible on his head coach’s shirt, one which Olsen changed out of before his press conference.
“I don’t think it’s the first time he’s bled. He’s a tough guy, he’ll shake it off,” said Olsen.
For as crucial as the victory was though, United couldn’t take the easy way out. The wasted chances eventually gave way to Acosta’s equalizer in the 82nd minute. Two more dropped points would have been devastating for United, especially given that Colorado might have been their easiest opponent for the rest of the season.
United immediately brought on Darren Mattocks, and also added Segura and Chris Durkin to the mix looking to change their fortunes.
“It’s up to the players at that point. The guys have to look within,” said Olsen. “You have seen us at times lose leads this year. What I’m most pleased about was the way we got [three points].”
Rooney recycled a free kick back to the other side of the field, and Acosta quickly played the ball to Segura in the box. There wasn’t much to aim for, but Segura worked himself into a pocket of space, and tried to cross the ball into the box.
His cross took a deflection off of Jackson, and though Howard was in a spot to make the save, but was off balance, and wasn’t able to make a play on the ball.
“Whenever you get into the box like that, you try to hit it as hard as you can,” Segura told reporters through an interpreter after the game. “So it hits a teammate or a defender, and you get something out of it.”
The road to the playoffs is still a long one for United. They have to make up at least 11 points to make the playoffs this year. A trip to Canada to take on the Montreal Impact looms next week, before United returns back to Audi Field.
But the result, the way in which United got the three points, just might be the moment that helps turn their season around.
“We had the mistake at the end,” said midfielder Russell Canouse, who made his first start of the season on Saturday night. “But we fought back, and that led to the three points.”