Wayne Rooney put United ahead less than a minute after halftime, but two Houston goals in two minutes and a late red card doomed the Black-and-Red to another loss in the Bayou City, where they’ve won only once in their history.
Ben Olsen turned back to a mostly first-choice side after heavily rotating for Wednesday’s scoreless draw in Toronto. With Junior Moreno in Venezuela mourning the passing of his father and Chris Durkin with the U.S. U-20s, though, Paul Arriola moved inside to join Russell Canouse in defensive midfield. Ulises Segura started in Arriola’s usual spot on the right wing.
The match opened with a clash of heads between Steven Birnbaum and Houston’s Alberth Elis just 20 seconds in. Birnbaum was beaten to the ball and rightly called for the foul. Both players attempted to continue, but Elis, one of Houston’s fastest and most dangerous attackers, was forced to sub out 10 minutes later.
United came close to a goal in the 12th minute, as left back Marquinhos Pedroso got onto a partially cleared ball and sent in a low cross-shot that just missed Wayne Rooney’s sliding attempt and went past the far post. Rooney himself went close a minute later, just putting his shot from 24 yards on the wrong side of the post.
From there, Houston would grow into the game, having the better of proceedings for much of the rest of the half.
United were lucky not to be down after 29 minutes. A final-third turnover led to a full-field Houston counterattack. Memo Rodriguez, who had replaced the injured Elis, got onto a cross wide open at the back post but couldn’t put his header on frame.
Dynamo #10 Tomas Martinez went into the book in the 38th minute after putting his cleat into Steven Birnbaum’s torso. The Houston crowd — who booed Birnbaum on every touch after Elis left the game — let their disagreement be well known.
Houston had another opportunity in the 43rd minute, Memo Rodriguez sending a low shot-cross across goal, but Romell Quioto was late arriving and forced to play backwards once he got on the ball.
Ultimately, neither keeper was troubled much in the first half, Bill Hamid’s routine catch on Quioto’s 23rd-minute shot the only save at either end.
That dynamic would change in the opening minute of the second half, with United the aggressors. Canouse turned Houston over off the kickoff, and the ball eventually found its way to Ulises Segura who played across goal for Wayne Rooney to put Los Capitalinos ahead.
Houston responded by reasserting the pressure they’d applied during the first half, resulting in a few open play chances and set pieces over several minutes. One free kick resulted from a Paul Arriola handball apparently inches outside the penalty box. Bill Hamid and the defense initially held firm, though, Wayne Rooney contributing the effort with a headed clearance inside the six-yard box in the 61st minute.
United would have a few opportunities on the counter during Houston’s ascendance, but the final ball was always just lacking. And then Houston struck.
The Dynamo equalized through Memo Rodriguez in the 67th minute. Steven Birnbaum’s turnover set up the Houston homegrown player’s fifth goal of the year.
Tommy MacNamara put the hosts on top just over a minute later. Another turnover from United led to an early cross that made its way all the way across Bill Hamid’s goal. Hamid managed to stop the first attempt, but McNamara was able to bundle it in on the rebound.
Mauro Manotas quickly was in position to double Houston’s lead, forcing a near-post save on a hard, driven shot in the 70th minute.
United came back into the game from there, but Houston weren’t without their chances. Russell Canouse saw yellow in the 76th minute after a foul on McNamara that broke up a developing Houston counter.
Ben Olsen made an attacking sub in the 82nd minute, putting Zoltan Stieber in for Pedroso. The manager’s intent was undone almost immediately, though as Paul Arriola tripped Houston left fullback Adam Lundqvist and stepped on his midsection during the follow-through. After initially giving Arriola a yellow card, referee Rubiel Vazquez changed his call to red after VAR, leaving the Black-and-Red down a goal and a man with only minutes left to play.
The visitors went for broke in stoppage time, pulling center back Frederic Brillant for forward Quincy Amerikwa. Despite a penalty shout in the final seconds of stoppage time, it wasn’t enough, and United were forced to take the loss. They fall to second place in MLS’s Eastern Conference after the Philadelphia Union drew with the Seattle Sounders.
D.C. United will host Spanish side Real Betis in a friendly at Audi Field on Wednesday night. Their next league action will be at the New England Revolution next Saturday, May 25.
MLS Regular Season (Game 14)
Houston Dynamo 2 (Rodriguez 67, McNamara 68)
D.C. United 1 (Rooney 46)
Houston (4231): Joe Willis; AJ DeLaGarza, Aljaz Struna, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Adam Lundqvist; Matias Vera, Oscar Boniek Garcia; Alberth Elis (Memo Rodriguez 11), Tomas Martinez (Juan David Cabezas 91+), Romell Quioto (Tommy McNamara 66); Mauro Manotas
DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brillant (Quincy Amarikwa 92+), Steven Birnbaum, Marquinhos Pedroso (Zoltan Stieber 82); Russell Canouse, Paul Arriola; Ulises Segura (Chris McCann 66), Luciano Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez; Wayne Rooney
Houston - Martinez 38, Struna 95+
DCU - Canouse 77, Arriola 85 (red)