D.C. United looked set to run their winless streak to four games on Saturday night, in their tilt against the Philadelphia Union, after falling behind early to Sebastian Le Toux's 5th minute goal. But Chris Pontius' first half equalizer and Chris Rolfe's late penalty saw United to a 2-1 win over the I-95 rivals.
Le Toux gave the Union the lead early on, converting for his first goal of the season. But just as the teams were set to head in for the half, Pontius headed home his second goal of the season, before Rolfe converted a penalty in the 85th minute for his fourth tally.
Despite fielding a much stronger side than the team that lost to the Portland Timbers 1-0 on Wednesday on a 5th minute goal, United again found themselves down a goal in the 5th minute, thanks to Le Toux's strike. After some Union pressure, Andrew Wenger forced Steve Birnbaum into a bad turnover in his own box, and then quickly fed Le Toux out wide. Before United's defense could react, Le Toux fired a shot past Bill Hamid for his first goal of the season.
The goal seemed to spur Philly on, as Fernando Aristeguieta nearly doubled their lead three minutes later. A long ball was played up from the back to Cristian Maidana, who held the ball up, allowing Aristeguieta to catch up. Maidana's cross then found the Venezuelan, but his header was straight at Hamid.
United had a penalty shout denied by Ted Unkel a minute later, after Davy Arnaud went down in the box from a Maurice Edu challenge. Chris Rolfe delicately played a ball in behind the defense for Arnaud, but as he made his way towards goal, he went down, looking for a penalty that wasn't to come.
Steve Birnbaum and Rolfe had chances with headers to get United back into the game, but neither managed to hit the target from Taylor Kemp deliveries.
Hamid was then forced into a save in the 33rd minute to keep United down by just the one goal. Le Toux got the ball out wide, and fed it back towards the middle for Maidana. Maidana had some space and options in the box, but elected for a left footed shot from an angle that Hamid was able to save.
And after creating the Union's first goal, Wenger nearly got in on the act for the second, beating Hamid but denied by the woodwork. Maidana quickly swept the ball out wide for Wenger, who was able to get away from Sean Franklin in the box. His powerful shot beat Hamid at the near post, but crashed off the woodwork, allowing United to clear their lines.
Le Toux had a shot saved late on in the half, setting the stage for United's equalizer in stoppage time. Perry Kitchen played a seemingly innocuous ball out wide for Kemp. But Kemp had enough time to get the ball on his left, and whipped in a powerful cross. Pontius rose up, and headed it over the diving Brian Sylvestre for the 1-1 halftime score.
United started the second half as they ended the first, with most of the possession in the opening stanza of the half. Not much came from the possession, as Bobby Boswell was beaten out to a Birnbaum flicked header at the far post. Arnaud then worked himself a shooting opportunity after forcing a turnover, but curled an effort just wide.
A broken excursion forward from Philadelphia nearly lead to Aristeguieta breaking the deadlock in the 61st minute. After United tried to clear, Sheanon Williams kept the chance alive, sending a cross in towards the back post. Wenger won the header, sending it back towards the middle, where Aristeguieta acrobatically made contact, but save his effort saved by Hamid.
United's own free kick 40 yards from goal nearly ended disastrously minutes later, as Pontius was forced to concede a free kick just outside United's box. Pontius' long range effort from the free kick went straight into the Union wall, and they were quickly on the run the other way. With Le Toux about to break into the box, Pontius conceded the foul, and Maidana sent the resulting free kick into the wall.
As both teams made subs to contend with the heat and humidity on the night, chances were few and far between as the game wore on. United continued to enjoy more possession, but found chances hard to come by. Rolfe tested Sylvestre from distance on a free kick, but the keeper was able to save.
Nick DeLeon then had a thunderous effort from outside the box saved by Sylvestre, just before Rolfe converted the penalty for the win. Chris Korb, who came on for the injured Kemp, sent a cross to the far post towards Rolfe, that was handled by substitute Zach Pfeffer. The assistant referee on that side saw the infraction, and immediately flagged for it. Rolfe then stepped up, and fired home, with Sylvestre glued to the spot.
From there, United survived a header from CJ Sapong, which landed on the roof on the net for their first victory since May 13, a 2-1 win over Orlando City.
The Black-and-Red are back in action Wednesday, welcoming the Chicago Fire into town.
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