After coughing up a signature early goal at home to New York City FC on Friday night, D.C. United found some late magic, as Alvaro Saborio scored in the 92nd minute to send the Black-and-Red to the 2015 MLS Playoffs with a 2-1 win. Fabian Espindola scored the equalizer for DC in the second half, after Frank Lampard had put City ahead in the 1st minute of the game.
But after wasting a 90th minute chance to give United the win, Saborio knocked down Espindola's free kick in stoppage time, making no mistake from the doorstep and giving United plenty of relief after a wretched run of games in league play.
In what's becoming the story of the season for United (especially at home) NYCFC was up a goal within a minute, as Lampard netted his third goal of his inaugural MLS campaign. City went left to right in their own half, quickly getting the ball up to Mix Diskerud at midfield. His little touch set Andrew Jacobson free, and the midfielder picked out David Villa in the box.
Villa had an initial shot saved by Bill Hamid, but the rebound fell right to Lampard. The Premier League veteran's bouncing effort got over Hamid, who wasn't able to recover quickly enough in the slippery conditions.
United went on search for an equalizer, but despite creating opportunities the Black-and-Red never challenged Josh Saunders in goal. Espindola had an early corner skip dangerously through the box without a touch, before the Argentine rolled the dice from long range only to send a slow roller straight to Saunders.
Taylor Kemp sent a dangerous cross into the middle in the 11th minute, but Saunders smartly got down to parry the ball away and NYC cleared the rebound before United had a chance to pounce.
Villa made a break from a DC corner in the 19th minute, quickly getting to midfield before playing out wide to Ned Grabavoy. The former Real Salt Lake man picked out Lampard in the box, but United quickly closed down the lanes, and the shot was blocked and cleared out.
Jacobson came close to doubling NYCFC's lead in the 25th minute, with a diving header off of a free kick from Andrea Pirlo. But in addition to the ball hitting the post, Jacobson was also ruled offside, a reprieve for United.
Chris Rolfe took aim from 30 yards out after Chris Pontius won a free kick, but Rolfe sent his effort over the goal. City then broke again from another United corner in the 41st minute, but Villa put his effort on the top of the net, as he tried to catch Hamid playing the angles.
Villa had one final chance to add to his goal tally this season in first half stoppage time, as Grabavoy kept the ball from going out near the corner of the box. Grabavoy found Lampard, who quickly played back to Villa, but the shot from the Spaniard skipped just wide at the near post.
Needing a result, United came out full of energy in the second half, pushing numbers forward in search on an equalizer. Perry Kitchen got onto Kemp's ball in the box, but Kitchen's effort into the middle lacked the crucial touch from an United teammate. The attack wasn't dead yet, and in the moments tha followed Espindola's service was popped up inside the penalty area. Kitchen was the first to react, but his header bounced wide of the mark.
The Black-and-Red had a goal in the 51st minute marked off, as Espindola's header in the box towards Pontius was swept home. Espindola was offside on the initial ball in though, denying Pontius a spot on the scoresheet.
NYCFC began to start applying pressure going forward, but without the end product they were unable to put the game out of reach for United. Their forays forward resulted in several corner kicks and dangerous crosses, all without the crucial finish.
After a relatively quiet first half, Pontius came alive as the second half wore on for United. His flicked header from Rolfe's long ball was saved by Saunders, before his left-footed cross found Nick DeLeon at the far post, with the resulting header bouncing wide.
United's breakthrough finally came in the 73rd minute, with Pontius the protagonist for Espindola's fourth goal of the season. Cutting in from the right, Pontius unleashed a shot on target that forced Saunders to parry the effort. Espindola was quickest to react to this generous rebound, easily slotting home from 8 yards out.
Pontius continued his rampage, heading an Espindola free kick over in the 77th minute before a long range effort from United's longest-tenured player was expertly parried away from danger by Saunders.
Pirlo had two goes with free kicks in the last ten minutes, with both efforts failing to test Hamid. Both sides pushed forward, looking for the winner that each club badly needed. In the 85th minute, Villa had an opportunity from a corner after a ball fell to his feet just seven yards out, but his twisting effort was pushed wide of the goal.
The substitute Saborio couldn't finish off a chance in the 90th minute, but the Costa Rican was the hero in stoppage time. Espindola dinked a free kick in from 40 yards out, and Saborio inched ahead of Jacobson to knock the ball down before prodding home from inside the six yard box for the 2-1 victory.
United have the week off due to the international match window before hosting the Chicago Fire on October 18th in their last home game of the season.