D.C. United used every single minute available them on Sunday night, beating Orlando City 3-2 with Luciano Acosta netting a late winner in stoppage time to seal his hat trick. United’s playmaker gave United the lead on the stroke of halftime, but an own goal from David Ousted quickly nullified United’s lead in the second half.
Cristian Higuita was sent off for Orlando minutes later, and Acosta gave United another lead in the 64th minute. Dom Dwyer equalized in the 71st minute, which then set the stage for Acosta’s late heroics, which was aided by a brilliant play from Wayne Rooney, who picked up two assists.
There was just one change to the starting lineup from last weekend: Paul Arriola started in place of Junior Moreno, as Ben Olsen went with his favored 4-1-4-1 formation. However, both Bill Hamid and Vytas, who joined the club during the week at the close of the transfer window, made the bench.
Both teams, given their place in the standings, were in need of a result. Still, neither team particularly impressed in the first half. United had a few early chances, but Yamil Asad shot over the bar in the 6th minute. Zoltan Stieber had a shot from a similar distance in the 11th minute, but his went wide.
Rooney got onto the end of a Arriola pass in front of goal in the 18th minute, but the English star’s back heel wasn’t on target, and didn’t get to Asad, who was making a run to the far post. At the other end, Ousted had little to do, but did have to produce a sharp save on Mueller at the near post in the 28th minute.
It seemed that there wasn’t going to be much drama as the first half came to a close, but in the 44th minute, Rooney had a goal ruled out for offside. A Stieber cross from the right found Asad, who headed the ball back in front of goal. Rooney sent a second header past Bendik, but the flag was up on Asad. A quick check on the video review confirmed the call.
But late in stoppage time, Acosta changed United’s fortunes. United strung a couple of passes together just outside the box, and Rooney found Acosta making his was into the box. Acosta took a couple of touches past the defense, and then laced a shot past Joe Bendik at the near post for the 1-0 lead.
Stieber nearly put United up by two early in the second half, as United once again worked the ball around outside the box. Stieber beat Bendik with his left-footed effort, but the ball smashed off the upright and away from danger.
A stroke of bad luck drew Orlando level in the 50th minute. Uri Rosell, given the start in midfield, got down to the end line, near a similar position where Ulises Segura forced an own goal two weeks ago. Rosell’s centering pass went off of Steve Birnbaum, and then hit Ousted before going in, with the goalie given credit for the own goal.
Video review changed United’s fortunes five minutes later though, as Higuita was sent off for making contact with Asad’s face. Asad had gone down behind the play, but at the next stoppage referee Jose Carlos Rivero took a look at the incident, and showed Higuita a straight red in the 55th minute.
Acosta had the ball in the back of the net in the 64th minute, as he raced on to a cross from Asad, and bravely touched the ball past Bendik, suffering a heavy collision in the process. The assistant referee raised his flag for offside on Acosta, and the goal was originally not awarded. However, after a check from the video review—the third time the system had been used in the game—a goal was awarded, and United were back in front.
United had the lead, and were up a man, but weren’t able to hold onto the advantage as Dwyer leveled the scoreline in the 71st minute. Racing off the back line, Dwyer got onto a pass from Rosell, and suddenly had just Ousted to contend with. The striker lofted the ball over Ousted, and Birnbaum wasn’t able to recover in time to prevent the goal.
Substitute PC had two looks at a go-ahead goal in the 77th minute, with a first shot blocked by Russell Canouse and a follow-up deflected out by Arriola. Scott Sutter had a shot from distance on the ensuing corner, but it went wide.
Olsen brought on Darren Mattocks and Ulises Segura, pulling both starting fullbacks as United went all-out in a game they had to win. Mattocks nearly put United ahead in the 85th minute, as Acosta and Rooney worked open a chance for the Jamaican. Mattocks’ effort was on target, but Bendik came up with a kick-save.
Moments later, back at the other end, Mueller picked out Dwyer on the run, as United had numbers committed forward. Dwyer looked to have a chance to take all three points, but Kofi Opare slid in just in time, blocking the shot. Then Canouse rose up to win a header in stoppage time from an Acosta cross, only to be denied a goal by an excellent save from Bendik.
But there was still enough time for Acosta’s heroics late on. United won a corner, and Ousted came up in hopes of helping United find a winner. Opare headed the service toward goal, but Rosell hacked it clear on the goal line. Orlando suddenly had a glorious opportunity, and Will Johnson started the break the other way, with no one in the defending end for United. Rooney chased Johnson down, won the ball, and quickly turned the other way, with just moments left in the game. Rooney lifted a ball towards the back post, where Acosta soared above Mueller to nod the ball over Bendik and in for a 96th minute winner.
VAR was consulted for the fifth time on the night, but after almost three agonizing minutes, Rivero confirmed that the goal would stand, giving United a hugely important win.
United, with 21 points from 20 games, returns to action on Wednesday, when they host the Portland Timbers.