D.C. United got a desperately needed win tonight, seeing off a late rally from the New England Revolution to win 3-2. Taxiarchis Fountas was spectacular in his first start, scoring two and setting up a third before halftime as United were the victors in Chad Ashton’s first game in charge since Hernán Losada was surprisingly sacked on Wednesday morning.
Ashton made some notable changes, including giving starts to both of United’s Designated Players, while replacing the injured Bill Hamid and Andy Najar with Jon Kempin and Brad Smith. Michael Estrada stepped in up top for the suspended Ola Kamara.
Despite the changes, United got off to a poor start. Emmanuel Boateng’s 6th minute cross ran long, but Carles Gil picked up possession, eventually laying the ball back to the top of the box. There lurked fullback Brandon Bye, completely unmarked, who dispatched a pinpoint shot from 21 yards that tucked into the corner, giving the visitors an early lead.
United were tepid at best, but showed signs of life midway through the half, with Chris Durkin’s shot requiring an excellent block from the Revolution defense, while Estrada’s follow-up flew wide.
That seemed to indicate that the Black-and-Red were wide awake, and they equalized in the 26th minute on Fountas’ first goal with the club. A clever sequence initially saw Fountas pass low across the goalmouth, only to find no runners. Julian Gressel hustled to keep the ball in play though, and pumped a cross back into the area. New England got the first touch, but the ball floated to Fountas, whose half-volley was every bit the kind of finish one would expect from a player of his reputation.
The goal was an immediate lift, with Gressel kept off the scoresheet just four minutes later by a spectacular reflex save from Brad Knighton after Fountas showed vision to swing play back over to the right side. New England responded, with Gil zipping a free kick wide and Buksa nodding a cross from Bye off target as a somewhat flat game livened up.
With the teams opening up, it would be United taking the lead, with Fountas and Gressel heavily involved yet again. The Greek forward carried the ball across the Revs defense without being closed, eventually playing a one-two with Gressel to free himself up to get into the box. Fountas picked his head up and crossed from the endline to find Estrada wide open on the doorstep, and the Ecuadorian striker will score few easier goals than this one, heading the ball past Knighton from two yards out.
Fountas continued a tremendously impressive outing in the 43rd minute, bagging his second goal of the night. Chris Durkin’s service was deflected and appeared destined to be cleared by Andrew Farrell, but Fountas blocked the ball, carrying it around Farrell before simply overpowering Knighton with a ferocious shot from just inside the area.
Still, New England weren’t falling apart. Sebastian Lletget and Bye both should have done better with headers in first half stoppage time, with Kempin tipping the former’s attempt over the bar, and being grateful that the latter headed right into his arms on a late corner.
United proceeded to manage the game after halftime, facing pressure but very few moments of danger. However, the Revolution pressure paid dividends as they punished United for a recurring weakness on set pieces. Adam Buksa, after a quiet night, headed home from the doorstep in the 86th minute, before a melee ensued in the box. Kempin stayed down after a clash, while Brendan Hines-Ike also ended up on the deck. Referee Marcos DeOliveira eventually booked Buksa and Henry Kessler, but the goal stood.
Fans surely had last weekend’s Austin FC disaster in mind, and just before stoppage time began, Kempin made a marvelous save to deny Buksa a stunning second after a cross from the right picked out the target man.
The sorely needed win breaks a four-game losing streak in league play, and sees United (3W-0D-4L) move out of the Eastern Conference cellar. They’ll get a chance to make further progress in one week’s time, as they travel west to face the Columbus Crew in a 7:30pm kickoff on April 30.
MLS Regular Season - Game 7
D.C. United 3 (Fountas 26, 43; Estrada 39)
New England Revolution 2 (Bye 6, Buksa 86)
DCU (343): Jon Kempin; Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum (C), Brendan Hines-Ike; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin, Brad Smith (Ted Ku-DiPietro 83); Edison Flores (Drew Skundrich 79), Michael Estrada (Nigel Robertha 60, Tony Alfaro 83), Taxiarchis Fountas (Jackson Hopkins 60)
Revs (4312): Brad Knighton; Brandon Bye, Omar González (Henry Kessler 46), Andrew Farrell, DeJuan Jones; Sebastian Lletget (Tommy McNamara 75), Matt Polster, Emmanuel Boateng (Damian Rivera 58); Carles Gil (C); Justin Rennicks (Jozy Altidore 58), Adam Buksa
DCU - Gressel 33
Revs - Jones 65, Buksa 86, Kessler 89