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Late Darren Mattocks goal earns D.C. United a 2-2 tie with LA Galaxy

Mattocks’ 8th of the season completed a two-goal comeback

D.C. United fell behind by two goals in the first half to the LA Galaxy, but fought their way back to earn a point in a 2-2 draw at the StubHub Center. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Chris Pontius scored in the first half to put the Black-and-Red in a big hole, but goals from Zoltan Stieber and Darren Mattocks gave United a point in the final game of eight straight on the road.

The game marked the end of United’s road-heavy portion of the schedule, as they awaited for the opening of Audi Field. It was their 12th game on the road against just 2 at home, and came just four days after a loss at the New England Revolution.

Head coach Ben Olsen named an unchanged starting lineup after United lost 3-2 to the New England Revolution on Saturday. There was a slight tactical switch, as Yamil Asad and Luciano Acosta switched roles, a set up that United had not used from the start this year. Paul Arriola and Joseph Mora did return to the bench after missing the Revs game due to injury, taking the places of Dane Kelly and Jared Jeffrey.

There hadn’t been much action to start the game, until Ibrahimovic scored in the 5th minute. Dave Romney got the ball out on the left for the Galaxy, and no one from United closed down the defender quickly. Romney played a hopeful ball into the box, but Ibrahimovic out-muscled Oniel Fisher, and smashed a volley past David Ousted for the 1-0 lead.

Zlatan nearly made it two in the 8th minute, thanks to some hard work from Romain Alessandrini. The French midfielder worked his way into the box, and tried to pick Ibrahimovic out with a pass. Steve Birnbaum intervened, but couldn’t clear the ball away, allowing Alessandrini a shot. His effort was wide, but Ibrahimovic was still able to stab a shot wide at the far post.

United came close to an equalizer in the 12th minute, as Asad sent a free kick from about 40 yards out into the box. Birnbaum was unmarked as he raced towards the ball. However, Birnbaum just missed getting a touch to the ball, and goalkeeper David Bingham was able to collect without much of a fuss.

In the 25th minute, proceedings got even worse for the Black-and-Red, as Pontius doubled the Galaxy advantage with an excellent strike. LA were able to keep possession in the attacking half for a spell, and moved the ball side to side. Eventually, Jorgen Skjelvik got the ball on the left, and switched the field to a wide open Pontius. The first touch from the former United player took him past Fisher, and Pontius thumped a shot that gave Ousted no chance from 20 yards.

That advantage lasted just 107 seconds though, as Stieber quickly brought United back within one with his third goal of the year. Just before, Acosta and Asad switched back to their normal roles, and Acosta had possession in the attacking half. He drove past some Galaxy opposition before slipping a pass through for Stieber, who opened up his hips to shoot. Bingham got a hand to the shot, but it still skipped past him as United were right back into the game.

Pontius had the ball in the back of the net in the 29th minute, as Ousted and Michael Ciani challenged for a free kick in the box. However, the assistant referee called Ciani offside on the free kick. On replay, it appeared that Ian Harkes kept the defender onside, making it a lucky break.

Mattocks had an opportunity late in the first half to equalize for the Black-and-Red, but the striker just missed out on his 8th goal of the season. Asad sliced a pass through the defense to find the streaking Mattocks in the box. With no angle and few options, he tried to fit the ball in at the far post, but his shot bent wide of the mark.

With their lead, the Galaxy were content to spend most of the second half in the defensive half of the field, conceding possession to an United side. Ibrahimovic did have a chance in an early foray forward, but he sliced a volley wide from a Romney cross in the 48th minute.

On a free kick in the 54th minute, Asad found Birnbaum in the box, and the center back headed the ball towards the penalty spot. The ball fell to the feet of Mattocks, who had to rush a shot, which ended in a scuffed effort that went wide of the goal.

Five minutes later, Ibrahimovic had another opportunity, after Asad turned the ball over in his own half. The Swedish striker liked his chances from the top of the box, but after cutting back against Frederic Brillant, he smashed a shot over the goal.

Olsen brought in Arriola for Harkes, and later Bruno Miranda for Stieber looking for the equalizer. United weren’t having much luck from open play, but several set pieces created dangerous moments in the box, though they did not lead to big chances or goals. On the other side, substitute Ola Kamara had the ball in the back of the net twice for the Galaxy, as they looked to lock up their win, but both times he was called offside.

United were running out of time late on, but Mattocks made the most of an opportunity to grab the equalizer in the 85th minute. The striker collected a pass from Arriola, and got into the box from the left flank, working against Perry Kitchen and Baggio Husidic. Mattocks slid past both and fired from just outside the six yard box and beating Bingham, giving the Jamaican his career-high 8th goal of the season.

With 11 points from 14 games, United are off until July 14th, when they open Audi Field with a tilt against the Vancouver Whitecaps.