After last weekend's poor performance, D.C. United got just the result they were looking for, beating the LA Galaxy 1-0 at RFK Stadium, with Chris Pontius netting the winner in the third minute of second half stoppage. Having battled back and forth for 90 minutes, neither team seemed capable of finding a winner, before Pontius headed home to give United all three points. The Black-and-Red also lost center back Steve Birnbaum to a left ankle injury early in the match.
Birnbaum's injury occurred just after the game got started. Sean Franklin and Nick DeLeon conspired to win a corner for United, which Chris Rolfe sent in towards the back post towards Birnbaum. The second year defender rose highest to win it, but as he came down, he landed awkwardly and had to be stretchered off as Kofi Opare came on to replace him.
The Galaxy then quickly gained the upper hand in the early proceedings as they created several scoring opportunities in the game's infancy. Newly acquired Finnish midfielder Mika Vayrynen came close in the 8th minute, after Davy Arnaud conceded a free kick just outside the box. The shot from Vayrynen eluded the wall, but bounced just wide of the post will Bill Hamid in the area.
Hamid had a shaky moment minutes later, though LA could not capitalize. Stefan Ishizaki's cross was well placed towards forward Alan Gordon, and Hamid came to claim, only to flap at the ball. Bobby Boswell was first to react, and he smartly headed the ball out for a corner, which United then cleared easily.
At the other end, an error from LA keeper Brian Rowe almost gifted the Black-and-Red a goal in the 18th minute. Chris Pontius made his way down the left hand flank, before cutting back to his right foot, and sending a cross in the box. Rowe claimed the cross without much fuss, but then dropped the ball with Nick DeLeon in the area. Rowe quickly covered though, and the chance was gone.
DeLeon nearly gave United the lead in the 25th minute, thanks to a brilliant long ball from Arnaud. Arnaud's ball found DeLeon on a perfectly timed run, and the midfielder touched the ball around the onrushing Rowe. The touch proved to heavy though, and while the chance persisted momentarily, the Galaxy finally cleared their lines.
Rowe was clearly the weak link in LA's charges for the night, as another moment of despair in the LA box occurred in the 37th minute. DC broke quickly from a LA corner, with Jairo Arrieta and Sean Franklin combining in the LA half. Franklin's pass to Arrieta opened a shooting lane for the Costa Rican on the box, alas, from a tight angle. But Rowe made the situation interesting, dropping the ball with Rolfe sniffing around, before gathering up to prevent any more danger.
Ishizaki's cross caused a real moment of danger for the defending MLS Cup champions as the half wore down. A spell of possession for LA allowed Ishizaki to whip in a cross from the right, finding an unmarked Gordon. Gordon did everything right in directing his header down to bounce near the line, but Hamid was equal to the effort.
Hamid's punch of Gordon's cross at the start of first half stoppage time did just enough to put off Jose Villarreal, who had an opportunity to volley home as Hamid attempted to get back in front of goal.
The Galaxy matched their own first half dominance at the beginning of the second half, carving out two opportunities to find the breakthrough. Ishizaki did well to chest a clipped ball down in the path of Vayrynen, but the midfielder fired wide of the mark. United then struggled to clear from a corner minutes later, and the ball eventually fell to LA center back Leonardo, who somehow failed to hit the target from 10 yards out.
It wasn't entirely an one-sided affair though, as United quickly had four chances of their own. But on a quick counter attack when United had the numerical advantage, Pontius' ball for DeLeon was picked out by Rowe. Rolfe then played Pontius into the box moments later, but only Pontius wasn't able to get a shot off.
United was arguing for a penalty then as Pontius broke into the box, defended by Omar Gonzalez. But replays showed that Gonzalez did well to tackle the ball away, despite the high risk tackle. DeLeon then kept in a corner form the resulting pressure, lifting an inviting ball to the back post. Pontius rose highest to win the header, but his effort was saved on the line by Rowe.
In the 67th minute, Ishizaki beat Hamid with a curling right footed effort from outside the box. But to the relieve of United, the shot smashed off of the post, and the game remained scoreless.
Villarreal managed to get a free kick on target after Gordon was taken down just at the top of the box. But with not much room to operate, Villarreal's effort wasn't strong enough, and Hamid got down quickly to make the save.
While United were able to amp up the pressure for the next couple of minutes at the other end, nothing came from their possession. Twice Franklin found himself in a good spot to whip in crosses, but neither one really gave United an opportunity to turn a shot on goal.
While neither team looked to settle for a draw, neither team really came close to finding a goal, setting the stage for Pontius' winner. Late in stoppage time, DeLeon got the ball in the box, and flicked the ball over left back Robbie Rogers. DeLeon then lifted a ball to the far post, and Pontius beat Dan Gargan to the ball, and headed home from six yards out, to give United two wins from two at RFK this season.