67 minutes gone on Saturday night, and proceedings looked just peachy for D.C. United. Responding well since being soundly defeated by the New York Red Bulls three weeks ago, Perry Kitchen had just struck from 20 yards out to put United up 2-0.
Then Damien Perrinelle pulled one back for the Red Bulls a minute later.
"The goal right after the goal, those are usually the ones that are devastating," United captain Bobby Boswell said after the game. "The momentum, you talk about a full shift. You got them on the ropes, and they're thinking two might be too much, and then they go right down and score. It's a complete reversal."
Still, with 22 minutes remaining, and the Red Bulls piling on the pressure, United looked set to hold off their arch rivals, and take all three points from the second installment of this year's Atlantic Cup rivalry. Instead, Bill Hamid spilled Sacha Kljestan's knuckling free kick, and Lloyd Sam was the quickest to react, and prodded home from close range to share the spoils.
"It's a good free kick. He knows how to hit it a certain type of way that moves. It is what it is," Hamid told reporters.
The most disappointing aspect of the draw was that it came on the back of United's best performance this season to date. After squeaking out 1-0 victories against the Montreal Impact, LA Galaxy, and Orlando City, to go along with the thumping handed to them at Red Bull Arena, United looked the better side throughout most of the match on Saturday.
But two lapses completely undid United's hard work, and Perry Kitchen's first professional two goal performance, the eight and ninth league goals of his career.
"It's two fold," United manager Ben Olsen said in a press conference following the game. "There's disappointment in not getting the result we wanted tonight, but it was a good night. I thought overall, it was a step forward from us. Ironically."
"We got to learn from some of the mistakes we made that cost us the points. But if we can take a large chunk of that game, and build off it, I think we are in good shape. There was a lot more good than bad in that game. And It's probably the best we played this year, from a soccer standpoint and from a mentality [standpoint]."
Despite conceding most of the possession to New York, United did a better job of preventing goal scoring chances than previous games. After a quick start from the Red Bulls, in which Kofi Opare knocked a cross off his own post, New York rarely looked likely to be able to find two goals during the game.
All it took was a Felipe corner though, and Perrinelle beat Opare to a header, bouncing the ball past Hamid for his first MLS goal. New York was right back in the game before they could have even realized they should have been out of it.
The stage was then set for Sam's late heroics. After being at the other end of late dramatics the past couple of weeks, this time, United was to concede, just before the game entered stoppage time. The free kick from Kljestan bounced just in front of Hamid, which made it too difficult to catch. The rebound got away, and Sam stabbed home.
"We're not that team. We feel like we're not the team that's going to give up late goals and give points away. I think it's uncharacteristic of us. But we have to learn from it," midfielder Davy Arnaud told B&RU after the game. "For the team we want to be and where we want to be in the league and in the standings at the end of the year, its unacceptable for us to give up two points like that at home. We should be leaving here tonight with three points. That's the bottom line."
Olsen had mostly positive things to say after the match, but it was clear that the mood wasn't what it should have been for the performance that United provided for most of the game. His final comment of the night summed that up perfectly:
"A lot of good, but disappointed with the result."