D.C. United broke a nine-game winless streak tonight, going on the road to defeat FC Cincinnati 2-1. Days after scoring his first MLS goal, Donovan Pines struck again in the first half, and after Cincinnati equalized through Brandon Vazquez, fullback Chris Odoi-Atsem fired home his first professional goal to give United their first win since early September.
With the clogged schedule an ever-present factor, Chad Ashton made four changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Philadelphia on Wednesday. On the down side, Bill Hamid and Junior Moreno remained out despite hopes of a possible return. Moreno’s injury and a yellow card accumulation suspension for Russell Canouse opened up a spot for homegrown starlet Moses Nyeman in central midfield.
The early exchanges were a bit of a slog, with both teams comfortably cancelling each other out. United started to dominate possession, but the game’s first genuine chance didn’t arrive until the 34th minute, and even then it was a fluke. A Cincinnati set piece routine resulted in a Frankie Amaya that was blocked in traffic, but it looped up towards the top corner, forcing Chris Seitz to scramble left and slap it away.
Moments later, United nosed in front on an even stranger play. Yamil Asad sent a long set piece in, but overcooked it. With the ball headed out of bounds, Cincinnati goalkeeper Bobby Edwards opted to try to catch the ball instead. Fearing that he’d cross the endline while holding the ball, Edwards thrusted his arms out, but dropped the ball in the process. Donovan Pines could scarcely believe his luck, taking a touch before gently passing the ball into the empty net in the 36th minute.
Referee Rosendo Mendoza got a call from VAR, but after a check upstairs, the bizarre goal was allowed to stand, giving Pines his second goal in as many games.
The extreme good fortune felt vital on a night where fluid attacking play was in extremely short supply. United was trying to take the game to the home side, but Cincinnati’s low block defending served to frustrate D.C., while counters the other way were sporadic and ineffective.
United came out of the locker room looking to pad their lead, with Erik Sorga firing over the bar from close range after Edison Flores picked him out from the left wing on a 54th minute counter. Two minutes later, Gelmin Rivas barely missed wide after chasing down a deep ball from Julian Gressel, and paid the price as he crashed into the advertising boards in the process.
However, just as United was tightening their grip on the game, Cincinnati equalized on virtually their first attack since halftime. Substitute Siem de Jong collected a 66th minute long ball outside the box and dipped inside before firing on goal. The shot hopped up just before getting to Chris Seitz, who spilled the rebound into the path of Brandon Vazquez, who poked the ball home before anyone in white could interfere.
Looking for a quick response, Flores bent a 28 yard free kick just inches wide in the 71st minute with what turned out to be his last kick of the game before being subbed off for Kevin Paredes.
That proved to be an important change, as Paredes was a factor as United went back in front in the 78th minute. United forced a turnover in the midfield, with Moses Nyeman quickly pushing play forward to Paredes. Given time and space, Paredes moved inside before zipping a low shot towards the bottom corner. Edwards tipped it away at full stretch, and Chris Odoi-Atsem — pushing all the way upfield from his right back position, and with no previous goals in his professional career — crushed the rebound into the roof of the net from close range.
Odoi-Atsem nearly scored again in the 86th minute, with Gressel dropping deep to serve the ball in for his overlapping run, before United closed up shop, finally breaking a nine-game winless streak that dated back to September 2nd’s 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls. United (3W-6D-10L, 14th place) will look to build some momentum next weekend, as they head south to take on Atlanta United at Mercedez-Benz Stadium Saturday night.
MLS Regular Season - Game 19
FC Cincinnati 1 (Vazquez 66)
D.C. United 2 (Pines 36, Odoi-Atsem 78)
DCU (442): Chris Seitz; Chris Odoi-Atsem, Frederic Brillant (C), Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel, Moses Nyeman (Oniel Fisher 87), Yamil Asad, Edison Flores (Kevin Paredes 72); Erik Sorga, Gelmin Rivas (Ola Kamara 64)
FCC (4231): Bobby Edwards; Saad Abdul-Salaam (Rashawn Dally 54), Nick Hagglund, Tom Pettersson, Andrew Gutman; Kamohelo Mokotjo (Siem de Jong 60), Haris Medunjanin (C); Alvaro Barreal (Zico Bailey 85), Frankie Amaya, Joe Gyau; Brandon Vazquez
DCU - Asad 27, Nyeman 32, Odoi-Atsem 93+
FCC - None