Despite all the pregame talk surrounding Wayne Rooney’s absence and the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bill Hamid emerged as the star, helping D.C. United hung on to defeat the LA Galaxy 2-1 in front of a crowd of 20,006 at Audi Field. Paul Arriola and Lucas Rodriguez scored for United, who survived an MLS record 15 shot attempts from Ibrahimovic to hang on for the three points.
The Galaxy are noted for being dependent on crosses, and sure enough, the early stages were packed with crosses towards Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Still, United mostly coped with the danger, though Argentine international Cristian Pavon — who the Galaxy managed to secure eligibility for ahead of tonight’s kickoff — nearly set up the Swedish icon for a good look midway through the first half. In the end, Frederic Brillant and Joseph Mora did just barely enough, and Ibrahimovic headed over.
Without Rooney (illness), United had offered barely anything going forward, but nonetheless took the lead in the 28th minute. A Bill Hamid goal kick found Rooney’s stand-in Quincy Amarikwa, who flicked the ball on. LA should have been able to handle it, but Ulises Segura rushed in from the right to clip the ball over the Galaxy defense. With the visitors flat-footed, Paul Arriola sprinted in alone, slotting the ball underneath David Bingham to give United their first home lead since June 26th against Orlando City.
Still, LA were the more threatening team, causing numerous defensive adventures for United. A 36th minute Hamid clearance under pressure smacked right into Ibrahimovic, and Pavon was able to corral it before it went out for a goal kick. Hamid was briefly stranded, but Pavon’s rush to keep the ball in ended with a cross that Brillant dealt with, ending the danger.
Despite having barely over 30% of possession, United appeared to steal a second goal in the 44th minute. Brillant stepped up early to win the ball from Ibrahimovic, and then lead an unlikely counter up the middle. The Frenchman pushed play forward to Arriola on the left, where the USMNT winger cut inside of Rolf Feltscher before rasping a low shot on goal. Bingham fought the initial shot off, but Lucas Rodriguez powered the rebound past him.
United celebrated, but referee Alan Kelly, after pausing to consider the play, called the goal back for offside, as both Rodriguez and Amarikwa were offside when Arriola took his initial shot.
LA nearly leveled the score with the last play of the half, as yet another cross was nodded goalward by Ibrahimovic. That effort was blocked, then rebounded off of Arriola before falling to Uriel Antuna. Antuna seemed sure to score after his shot got through traffic, but Hamid somehow got down in time to make the stop.
United’s good fortune ran out in the 48th minute, as Favio Alvarez bagged the equalizer. Once again, the Galaxy hoofed the ball into the area for Ibrahimovic. This time, Robinson had the block, but the ball caromed down onto Ibrahimovic’s plant foot, rolling to the top of the box. Alvarez was the only player to react, thumping the ball into the lower corner from 19 yards.
The Black-and-Red, playing out of a low block, were enduring constant pressure, but LA was largely unable to turn it into anything threatening. Finally, in the 71st minute, a Galaxy corner picked out Ibrahimovic at the back post, with the Galaxy captain’s volley from point-blank range looking like a sure goal. However, Hamid made an utterly astounding reflex save, keeping United afloat.
That play loomed even larger two minutes later, as United took the lead. Rodriguez started the play, picking up the ball between the lines as the Galaxy were caught out of defensive shape. Rodriguez moved it right to Arriola, who teed up Segura for a 23 yard shot. Segura’s effort flummoxed Bingham, who made the save but couldn’t keep hold of the ball. Arriola blasted the rebound at Bingham, who again made the stop but again let the ball bounce free. Finally, on the third attempt, Rodriguez took a touch before firing calmly past Bingham.
Hamid produced another sterling save in the 88th minute, robbing Alvarez on a volley from the top of the box as United settled into a purely defensive footing. From there, United defended its penalty area bravely, hanging on end a three-game winless skid.
United, now in 3rd place on 39 points, will look to start a winning streak next week, as they head cross-country to face the Vancouver Whitecaps.
MLS Regular Season (Game 26)
D.C. United 2 (Arriola 26, Rodriguez 73)
LA Galaxy 1 (F. Alvarez 48)
DCU (4231): Bill Hamid; Jalen Robinson, Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum (C), Joseph Mora; Leonardo Jara, Felipe; Ulises Segura, Paul Arriola, Lucas Rodriguez; Quincy Amarikwa
LA (4231): David Bingham; Rolf Feltscher (Julian Araujo 90), Dan Steres, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Diego Polenta; Perry Kitchen (Sebastian Lletget 78), Jonathan dos Santos; Uriel Antuna (Chris Pontius 84), Favio Alvarez, Cristian Pavon; Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C)
DCU - Amarikwa 75
LA - None