D.C. United went for a repeat of their last electric performance against Orlando City SC, winning 2-1. D.C. scored both goals in stoppage time. It's been just under a month since D.C. United and Orlando City SC squared off at Exploria Stadium. While tonight's win didn't have five goals, the mentality and character displayed by the Black-and-Red was the real showstopper.
At the whistle, Taxi Fountas and Miguel Berry headed up a 4-4-2 in a departure from the 4-2-3-1 of the last few matches. New signing Ravel Morrison made the starting XI and began on the right. The opening five minutes looked promising, with a patient D.C. making thoughtful passes and showing just the right edge against Orlando. But, unfortunately, the calm, collected play from D.C. would be disrupted by a fast counter from Orlando.
It was certainly refreshing to see D.C. United with new players available and head coach Wayne Rooney finally on the touchline. What wasn't refreshing - D.C. conceded a goal for the fifth time this season within the first ten minutes of the match.
Júnior Urso fired from the edge of the box after receiving a good ball from Alexandre Pato to put one in the net for Orlando in the 9'. His long-range shot caught Rafael Romo off guard, and the D.C. United goalkeeper couldn't make the interception.
While the first moments of the match saw D.C. making a concerted effort to be more patient on the ball and tenacious in getting and maintaining possession, Orlando's midfield quickly stepped up to dominate play and took advantage of any opportunity to put the pressure on the Black-and-Red. In a fraught moment, Sami Guediri had to put his body on the line, diving to defend a tough Orlando challenge. Guediri said, "I was just trying to stay focused., stay aware of the game, and then happy I was able to make a couple of big plays to help the team pull a result."
Orlando's difficulty finishing their chances in the final third and great defensive plays from the likes of Guediri saved D.C. United from being behind further at the half. A missed set piece opportunity highlighted Orlando's struggle, as Benji Michel had a clear shot that he missed wide and to the left in the 38'. Had Orlando been more clinical and finished their chances, it's almost certain the Black-and-Red would have headed into the half down by three or more.
The second half signaled a shift in D.C.'s play as Wayne Rooney told the team they "needed to win the game." As a result, the Black-and-Red found an extra dose of tenacity in the locker room, doubling down on Orlando. To up the tempo, Rooney began to make decisive substitutions, starting with Martín Rodríguez entering the match in the 46' for a struggling Sofiane Djeffal.
Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was a formidable foe, shutting down the Black-and-Red's best attempts. Taxi Fountas found himself in the center of the box with an opportunity after Chris Durkin fired in a solid cross in the 61', but Gallese's quick reflexes denied him.
By the 70', D.C. still hadn't found an equalizer, and frustration was apparent on the faces of the players. Ola Kamara and Andy Najar replaced Miguel Berry and Chris Odoi-Atsem, adding instant punch to D.C.'s attack.
In the dying moments of the match, Chris Durkin found the equalizer, scoring his first goal of the season by firing a rocket past Gallese in the 90' + 1'. Ola Kamara provided the assist.
Taxi Fountas lobbed in a beautiful cross by Kimarni Smith for the game-winner, scoring in the absolute last moment, the 90' + 5'.
Building a team requires patience, and creating the kind of chemistry needed to make a deep playoff run or win silverware takes time. After a tumultuous start to the season, last-place D.C. United hopes to turn things around with a fresh mentality and a revamped roster. Can they do it? After tonight, it looks likely- if they stay the course.
D.C. United travels to Bank of America Stadium to face Charlotte FC on Wednesday at 7 pm ET.
- Wayne's reign has begun. In his second managerial role, Wayne Rooney has returned to the District to guide the Black-and-Red as the struggling club hopes to rebuild and return to the glory days of seasons past. Tonight's 2-1 win is a great start. To capitalize on tonight's momentum, Rooney said, "We have to go again...I understand players will make mistakes. No problem. I want them to try things I want them to reach the ball in the right areas. And if you make a mistake, give the ball away. Try it again. That's part of the game, and I think giving the players that freedom of mind and to be able to do that is going to make a difference."
- The players are bought in. It has been evident over the past weeks that the players have bought into Rooney's mission to center character and mentality. Jackson Hopkins said, "Our season starts today. So just got to keep this going and focus on Charlotte now."
- Good individual performances, but group cohesion is still a work in progress. We saw outstanding individual performances and effort today, but there is still work to be done on group cohesion. Frustration was evident as there were missed connections, but the bright spots are certainly there - Chris Durkin scoring his first of the season, Sami Guediri putting it all on the line for the team, and the team's buy-in to Rooney's vision.
MLS Regular Season - Game 21
D.C. United: 2 Durkin 90’ + 1’, Fountas 90’ + 5
Orlando City SC: 1 Urso 9’
D.C. United (4-4-2): Rafael Romo, Steve Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike, Sami Guediri (Kimarni Smith 88’), Chris Odoi-Atsem (Andy Najar 70’), Sofiane Djeffal (Martín Rodríguez 46’), Chris Durkin, Ravel Morrison, Jackson Hopkins, Miguel Berry (Ola Kamara 70’), Taxi Fountas
Orlando City SC (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese, Robin Jansson, Antônio Carlos, João Moutinho (Kyle Smith 69’), Ruan, Alexandre Pato, César Araujo, Mauricio Pereyra (Andrés Perea 55’), Benji Michel (Rodrigo Schlegel 15’), Facundo Torres (Nicolas Gioacchini 69’), Júnior Urso
D.C. United: Djeffal 8’
Orlando City SC: Moutinho 69’, Michel 88’