D.C. United is feeling the pressure. But rather than crumble against Orlando City SC, the Black-and-Red drew on mental strength and grit to win, 5-3.
Head coach Chad Ashton emphasized in Saturday’s pre-match press conference the importance of pushing Orlando into defense and being decisive on the ball. Ashton and his coaching staff provided the substance - in the form of three designated players in the starting XI attack - for D.C. United to execute on their tactical ask. A shored-up five-man backline bolstered Rafael Romo’s position, keeping the Black-and-Red tight in defense.
By the 5’, Taxi Fountas had delivered D.C. United’s first goal of the match off a smart cross by Chris Durkin. Then, in the 8’, Fountas made it a brace. Donovan Pines and Michael Estrada fed Fountas a good ball through traffic to set him up right in front of Pedro Gallese. With a quick touch, Fountas slid the ball past Gallese, notching a brace before the 10’. Fountas is the first D.C. United player to accomplish this feat in the club’s MLS history.
5': 1-0 .— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 5, 2022
8': 2-0 .
Eight goals in eight MLS games for Taxi Fountas has @dcunited ahead at the half. #letsfly pic.twitter.com/KHiwP9J67D
Orlando sought to answer D.C.’s early lead in the 23’, but Ercan Kara fouled Rafael Romo in his attempt. Supporters held their breath as Romo lay on the ground and Jon Kempin warmed up on the sideline. Thankfully, Romo returned to action, and the Black-and-Red held on to the lead going into halftime. Was it optimism in the air for D.C. United fans? You bet.
Fountas kept his goal-fest going after the half with another banger in the 51’. As the Black-and-Red basked in a three-goal lead (and a clean sheet), Orlando City was gathering their strength to go on the attack.
TAXI FOUNTAS GETS HIS HAT TRICK. @dcunited lead big in Orlando. pic.twitter.com/1kGHH1l5Z8— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 5, 2022
D.C.’s freewheeling lead was challenged in the 57’ as Facundo Torres slotted one home past Romo from outside the box. Torres then turned to assist Kara in the 66’, allowing him to finish what he started in the first half.
Facundo Torres with a great hit!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 5, 2022
His finish from outside of the box brings one back for #OrlandoCity. pic.twitter.com/u6Mb5eEpuR
With only a goal separating D.C. United and Orlando, the fight was on. Kimarni Smith stepped up to score his first goal in Black-and-Red, taking a shot from distance to give D.C. some breathing room once again. Smith said, “I’m pretty fast, so if I run into that space, I could exploit, and then I see the keeper off his line. So it’d be better for me to shoot early.” Smith’s quick thinking and clinical finish helped him easily find the back of the net behind a stunned Gallese.
Kimarni Smith makes it 4!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 5, 2022
His first MLS goal comes at a big time for @dcunited. ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/IrqUGmviSd
Smith’s goal provided the perfect buffer as Orlando’s Alexandre Pato converted a penalty to make it a one-goal game again.
Alexandre Pato makes it a one-goal game from the penalty spot! #OrlandoCity pic.twitter.com/Ud4u7oXKRl— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 5, 2022
With seven (yes, SEVEN) minutes of stoppage time added to the match, it was a nail-biter to the end. Nigel Robertha came through with the Black-and-Red’s fifth and final goal of the match in the 90’+ 6’.
Goal No. for your viewing pleasure!— D.C. United (@dcunited) July 5, 2022
Nigel Robertha seals the W for the Black-and-Red https://t.co/QRG5l76Xj7 pic.twitter.com/Z2J0HybC9j
D.C. United will keep the show on the road, heading north to play the Philadelphia Union on July 8 at 7:30 PM ET at Subaru Park.
- Head coach Chad Ashton threw everything but the kitchen sink into the attack. It paid off. Taxi Fountas, Ola Kamara, and Michael Estrada made the XI. D.C. United found two goals within the first 10 minutes at the feet of Taxi Fountas and they kept on coming. Ashton said, “I think the guys deserve all the credit because it is difficult when you have three bad results in a row, it causes your confidence to waver a little bit, and that’s when you really got to reach down and basically find your competitive spirit, and I thought our guys did that.”
- Taxi Fountas continues to impress. Fountas racked up two goals for a brace within the first 10 minutes of the match, exercising incredible judgment to best Orlando’s defense. At the beginning of the second half, he made it a hat trick, scoring in the 51’. The smile never left Taxi’s face.
10 - Taxi Fountas (2 goals in 8 minutes) is the first player to score twice in the opening 10 minutes of a match in @dcunited's @MLS history. Meter. pic.twitter.com/Jdk77WHkYd— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) July 4, 2022
- D.C. still has work to do. Ashton said of the second half, “I thought our balance went away a little bit we were trying to counter too much, too often. We were giving the ball away a little bit cheaply. And now we’re starting to defend a little too much and in the second half, start to get a little too low.”
MLS Regular Season - Game 16
Orlando City SC: 3 Torres 57’, Kara 66’, Pato 80’ PK
D.C. United: 5 Fountas (5’, 8’, 51’), K. Smith 74’, Robertha 90’+ 6’
Orlando City SC (4-2-3-1): Pedro Gallese, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Ruan (Tesho 77’), Mauricio Pereyra (Jack Lynn 90’ + 3’), Sebastián Méndez (César Araujo 46’), Júnior Urso (Beni Michel 59’), Ercan Kara, Jake Mulraney (Facundo Torres 46’), Alexandre Pato
D.C. United (5-3-2): Rafael Romo, Brendan Hines-Ike, Steve Birnbaum, Donovan Pines, Sami Guediri (Brad Smith 58’), Julian Gressel (Tony Alfaro 89’), Drew Skundrich, Chris Dunkin', Michael Estrada (Kimarni Smith 71’), Taxi Fountas (Nigel Robertha 59’), Ola Kamara (Chris Odoi-Atsem 89’)
Orlando City SC: Schlegel 50’
D.C. United: Robertha 90’