Coming off a strong second half performance on Wednesday night against Orlando City, D.C. United lost just their second game of the season on Sunday night, falling 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union. Zach Pfeffer, who had entered the game in the 71st minute, fired the Union to their second victory with a 93rd winner.
Both teams had goals called back by referee Alan Kelly, setting the stage for Pfeffer's late dramatics.
Former USA striker Conor Casey had a goal called back in the 16th minute after handling the ball while trying to control it, and United's goal - which appeared to have been knocked in by the Union's Maurice Edu - was disallowed after Kelly whistled for a foul.
Playing their third game in nine days, United got off to the bright start that they were looking for. After conceding an early corner, United quickly broke the other way through Chris Rolfe and Jairo Arrieta. The two combined for several passes as they moved down the field, but couldn't manage to get a shot off.
The Union couldn't clear though, and debutante Markus Halsti was able to retain possession. He played into the box for Arrieta, who quickly found Rolfe near the top of the box. With Michael Farfan bending a run in behind the defense, Rolfe one-timed a pass towards Farfan that had just too much on it for the midfielder to connect.
Farfan then created a chance of his own, as United's high pressure in the Philly half produced a turnover, picked up by Farfan. With several options to his side, Farfan cut back twice to create some shooting space, but fired over the mark.
In the 16th minute, the Union had the ball in the back of the net for what looked to be the opener, only for Kelly to wave it off. Sebastian Le Toux made his way down the right before whipping in a cross toward Casey. Casey knocked the ball down and finished, but was adjudged to have handled in bringing the ball down.
That started a spell of Union dominance, despite not being able to create much. In the 32nd minute, the chances finally came, as the Union had several looks on goal. Vincent Nogueira had the first look, but his shot from outside of the box was well covered by Bill Hamid.
A shot from Le Toux moments later was saved by Hamid at the near post, but United couldn't properly clear. The ball was cycled back around, and eventually fell to Nogueira, who saw his shot deflected out for a corner.
Sheanon Williams had a dangerous cross skip past Casey and United defender Kofi Opare in the 35th minute. Hamid was frozen expecting a touch from Casey, but was able to react to smother when it got by.
United finally made some noise at the other end near the end of the first half. Rolfe was taken down outside of the box, giving Taylor Kemp a chance to whip in a free kick. His service found Arrieta, who acrobatically bounced a shot just over the bar, though he was called for a foul anyway.
Casey came close to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of halftime, only to be stymied by Hamid. A long throw in from Williams was flicked on by Nogueria in the box. The flick found Casey, who guided the ball on target from just a few yards out, but Hamid was on the spot to make the save, to ensure the half ended scoreless.
Minutes after the second half began, Miguel Aguilar almost put United ahead, but was denied a brilliant goal by the woodwork. Aguilar, making his first MLS start, picked up a pass in midfield, and quickly made his way up field, using a step over and a burst of speed to find an opening. His left footed shot from 20 yards out was well placed, but the far post kept the Aguilar from his first MLS goal.
At the other end, Le Toux and Nogueira combined in the midfield to find Casey in space out on the left. The big striker had plenty of time and space to send a cross in with Le Toux making a run into the box, but the cross was at the near post, and covered by Hamid.
Casey had another opportunity to find the opener in the 60th minute, with the ball at his feet at the top of the six yard box. But after collecting William's service, Casey had his effort blocked, allowing United to clear the danger.
The Black-and-Red found the back of the net in the 65th minute, but just like Casey in the first half, had it chalked off by Kelly. Kemp's free kick as whipped into the box, and was somehow bundled home. But with a Philadelphia defender hitting the ground, Kelly whistled for the foul, keeping the game scoreless.
On a counter attack in the 73rd minute, the Union again came close to finding the first goal, only to be denied by Hamid. Philly quickly got the ball up the field, resulting in Nogueira slipping Le Toux in behind Opare. But Hamid was quickly off his line to deny Le Toux from a sharp angle.
The resulting corner kick fell to Fabinho outside of the box, but the defender, who had come on for an injured Ray Gaddis, saw his well hit shot whistle wide of the mark.
The Union continued to push forward for the winner, as United were forced to finish the game with just ten players. Luis Silva, who had entered in the 65th minute for Aguilar, spent several minutes limping around. After trying to work through the issue, United manager Ben Olsen removed Silva, forcing United to play the last five minutes and stoppage time with just ten.
It was then in stoppage time when the Union on the game. After a spell of a spell of possession, the ball was sent in from the left by Fabinho for Pfeffer. Pfeffer did well to settle the ball, before firing home at the near post past Hamid for the 1-0 lead, and win.
Highlights will be added when they become available.