Losing for the first time at RFK Stadium all season on Wednesday against Orlando City, D.C. United was on the brink of their first loss at home since June of 2014. With 20 minutes left, United trailed by a goal and had not really troubled keeper Donovan Ricketts up to that point.
Ten minutes later, United had scored twice, giving them a 2-1 victory over the expansion side. Kofi Opare headed home the equalizer in the 71st minute, and Chris Rolfe, who started the game on the bench, stabbed the winner past Ricketts 8 minutes later.
The goals canceled out Cyle Larin's opener in the first half, enabling United to run their current unbeaten streak to eight games. With the win, United move top of the league, with 21 points from 10 games.
The Black-and-Red quickly took control of the game from the outset, looking for an opening goal that has been a staple of their recent unbeaten run. Luis Silva got the party started early, after Chris Pontius chested down a ball for his fellow striker. But Silva's long range effort was well wide of the mark.
Nick DeLeon then sent in a dangerous cross from the right, but City's keeper Donovan Ricketts did well to hold on with Pontius lurking in the area. Taylor Kemp's cross minutes later sizzled past the far post.
All that progress United made vanished in the 11th minute, as Larin fired the Lions ahead with his third goal of the season. City did well to earn a corner on a counter, and the resulting corner resulted in mayhem in United's box. Several shots were blocked, with the ball eventually falling to the feet of Larin. His well placed effort beat Bill Hamid at full stretch, giving the Lions the shock lead on the road.
Orlando controlled the tempo for much of the rest of the half, as their organization proved difficult for United to break down. That effort produced only a few openings going forward, but limited chances at the other end as well.
DeLeon almost carved out a chance in the 24th minute on the counter. With the ball at his feet, DeLeon picked up his head, and tried to play a ball over to Silva, who was making a dangerous run. But with the ball on target, Aurelien Collin timed his step perfectly and cut out the chance before Silva could get the ball.
A couple of half chances from United failed to test Ricketts as the half waned on. Silva got on the end of a Kemp free kick, but it bounced wide. And then Pontius was first to Kemp's corner, but his diving header was deflected out for another corner.
Rafael Ramos had the last chance of the first half, and he came close to doubling City's lead. The Portuguese defender worked his way up the right, before cutting in and working space to shoot. But with Hamid sprawling the effort went wide of the target.
United came out with more urgency to start the second half, but failed again to really create any real openings. United forced Collin into an awkward sliced clearance for a corner, but failed to do much with that.
Michael Farfan won United a dangerous corner after undressing Luke Boden with a nutmeg, allowing Kemp another opportunity at service. Kemp's effort was well placed, but a tame effort fell into Rickett's welcoming arms.
Substitutes then turned the game all around for United.
Miguel Aguilar, who minutes before had replaced Farfan, danced around several defenders in the box. The rookie midfielder then somehow fed the ball to DeLeon, but NDL's attempt from point blank range was well saved by Ricketts.
Two minutes later, United found their opening. Aguilar won a free kick near the center circle in Orlando's half. This time, Kemp's delivery was on point. His ball to the back post found Opare, who rose above two defenders to head past Ricketts in the 71st minute.
From there, it only took eight more minutes for United to find the winner. A pair of second half substitutes, combined to create the goal, culminating in Chris Rolfe's third tally of the season. Jairo Arrieta, who had come on for DeLeon, held the ball up, waiting for Rolfe to make his run into the box. Perfectly timed, Arrieta's ball was behind the defense, and Rolfe acrobatically got enough of a touch to get past Ricketts for the 2-1 lead.
The Black-and-Red kept the pressure up as the game wore down, looking for the third goal to kill off. Keeping possession, United weren't able to carve out any chances, despite the cheers of 'ole' ringing out in the crowd.
The Lions had one final chance, as the game headed into the four minutes of stoppage time. Kaka, who had been held quiet all game, had an opportunity from a free kick delivery in hopes of finding an equalizer. His delivery from the left found the head of a City player, but the flick on was weakly sent towards Hamid after bouncing around in the box.