Struggling for 90 minutes on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United looked like they were about to escape PPL Park with at least a point. United was short a man in stoppage time after Luis Silva had to be pulled with no subs left, with United at the end of their third game in nine days. But the score was 0-0 heading into stoppage time, with five additional minutes to be played.
That point wasn't to be though, as Union substitute Zach Pfeffer fired home in stoppage time, condemning United to their second loss of the season, a 1-0 defeat.
After the game, a solemn mood descended over the locker room, with the Black-and-Red left to ponder the dropped point after conceding for the second time this season in the 90th minute or later.
"I don't think it was a great performance, no," United manager Ben Olsen said when asked of his team's performance. "[The Union] earned that win tonight. I think they were the better team in a lot of aspects."
Fatigue and having to give time to a couple of guys who don't usually play together seemed to have an adverse affect on United's performance in Chester. After Wednesday's game against Orlando City, Olsen made five changes, giving Markus Halsti his first MLS appearance and start.
"I'm not overly concerned that our third game in [nine days], that we looked a little off," said Olsen.
Three of the five new starters on Sunday night however, were the three subs who came off the bench on Wednesday in the come from behind win against the Lions at RFK. But with Chris Rolfe, Jairo Arrieta, and Miguel Aguilar on at the start, it was clear after the early on that United was going to labor to any points they might come across.
In the end, the managed just five shots throughout the 90 minutes, none of which forced a save out of Union keeper Brian Sylvestre. That's a far cry from that second 45 against Orlando, in which United more or less took up residence in the opposition half.
"It was a tough way to end a week. It stings right now. We got to learn from it. Between the guys that were new, and the guys that were tired, we weren't very dominant tonight. I do think we were good enough to get a point out of it, but credit to Philly. We busted our asses, but it didn't pay off at the end."
One of the bigger talking points after the game for Olsen though, was the goal that United scored that was called back by referee Alan Kelly in the 65th minute. In the first half, Union had a goal called off after it appeared that Conor Casey handled the ball in the buildup to his goal.
Nothing seemed too awry as United managed to force home a Taylor Kemp free kick in the second half though. But Kelly called for a foul, much to the chagrin of Olsen.
"We scored a goal. A legitimate goal for my money, on the road, and it gets called back," he said afterwards. "We're in good shape to gut out a win or a tie, and then Luis Silva comes off, and we're playing down a man"
"Those type of things change games. But we'll get a good bounce here one of these days. We've had good bounces, and those types of calls go our way so they usually even out."
"As easy as it is to throw things against the black board right now, I thought they brought a lot more to the table tonight,' Olsen said. "Energy wise, physicality, it was tough to deal with tonight. I'll take blame for that."