For a fleeting moment, it looked like Bill Hamid had stymied Kaka in the first half of Sunday's game between D.C. United and Orlando City. Hamid, who had already saved a Kaka at full stretch minutes before, had guessed correctly on Kaka's penalty in the 30th minute.
That moment was just a moment though, as the ball popped right back to Kaka, who headed into the empty net for the lone tally in the Lions' 1-0 win over D.C. United. Pedro Ribeiro earned the penalty seconds after forcing Hamid into a save, and despite the homegrown player making the initial save on the penalty, Hamid could do nothing about the rebound.
The third meeting between the newly acquainted Eastern Conference foes lacked the early spice that the previous meeting had produced. Cyle Larin netted early in the last game, setting the stage for a furious United second half comeback. Neither team produced an opening in the opening 20 minutes, settling instead for probes into the offensive thirds that lacked chances.
Orlando finally had the first sight at goal in the 23rd minute, as Brek Shea and Eric Avila combined in DC's half to get the ball over to the Brazilian Kaka. With space, Kaka took aim at goal from outside the box, but had his shot saved at full stretch by Hamid.
United then immediately created a chance at the other end, thanks in main part to a cross field switch from Davy Arnaud. Arnaud's switch found Nick DeLeon on the left, allowing the midfielder to collect and move in towards the box. From near the corner, DeLeon played the ball to the top of the box, where Jairo Arrieta one timed a shot that was parried away by Tally Hall.
What followed next was the sequence of events that led to Kaka's header in the 30th minute. Initially, Ribeiro brought down a ball in the box, and turned and fired a shot that was saved by Hamid. Steve Birnbaum slipped as he tried to clear, and the ball was still in the box. Both Ribeiro and Taylor Kemp went for the ball, but Kemp jumped into Ribeiro near the edge of the box, and a penalty was immediately awarded.
United were, as a group, livid. Arnaud insisted that Ribeiro's attempted trap was a high kick, but referee Jose Rivero did not change his call even after consulting with the far-side AR. Kaka stepped up to take the penalty, but had his effort saved as Hamid guessed correctly and dove to his right. Unfortunately the ball bounced right back to Kaka, and before Hamid could recover the Brazilian star made no mistake with a simple header for the 1-0 lead.
A water break immediately after broke up the rhythm of the half, but United had a couple of chances in stoppage time to get an equalizer before the break. Arrieta got onto a long ball from Arnaud after a mix up between Sean St. Ledger and Hall, but his header was weak, and St. Ledger recovered to put the ball out for a corner.
On the resulting corner the ball squirmed out to Chris Rolfe at the top of the box, but his effort was blazed over.
The second half had a quicker start to it, though neither team really created many genuine chances. Ribeiro won a header just over after the restart from a Rafael Ramos cross, but sent his effort just over the bar.
A short corner routine was poorly defended by United in the 51st minute, allowing Lewis Neal to find Avila unmarked in the box. But as Avila was setting to shoot, DeLeon quickly closed down the space, forcing Avila's shot well wide.
Kemp's ball over the top of City's defense a minute later found Arrieta, who did well to control, and turn towards goal. The striker then passed the ball to the top of the box looking for Espindola, but Orlando recovered in time to cut it out to prevent the shot.
Miguel Aguilar came on for Arrieta in the 57th minute, and immediately injected some speed and energy into a lagging United offense. After just missing out on creating a chance or two earlier, Aguilar picked out Espindola with a diagonal ball in the 62nd minute, but Espindola's effort was slashed wide of the near post.
Hamid was forced into an awkward clearance in the 73rd minute, as the Lions' kept a corner kick in play. Both Hamid and Ribeiro went for a ball bouncing in the box, but Hamid' misjudged, and made a save as Ribeiro got to it first, though the former Philadelphia Union player had little to aim for.
As United's frustration grew later on in the game at the lack of chances, Espindola tried a long range effort from outside the box that was on target, but held by Hall with several United players lurking, looking for a rebound.
The other two substitutes from manager Ben Olsen combined for the Black-and-Red's final opportunity in the second half, resulting in Conor Doyle slicing just wide from the top of the box. Luis Silva, who had entered for Rolfe, fed Arnaud near the top of the box. The midfielder played a quick back heel for Doyle, who had a sight at goal, but had his effort slice just wide of the mark.
United poured numbers forward late on as the game entered the five minutes of stoppage time, but to no avail.
D.C. United now sit on 28 points from 17 games, and will head to Pittsburgh for their Fourth Round matchup against the Riverhounds in the US Open Cup. United then return to RFK for Sunday's game against the New England Revolution.