Having been 35 days without a home game, struggling to score in four consecutive road games in MLS play, D.C. United came into Sunday's match at RFK Stadium against the Philadelphia Union needing a positive start. With the rest of the Eastern Conference slowly creeping up on United's top position, three points at home was a must given the form over the past month.
United got exactly the opposite of that in the first four minutes against the Union.
"We had a few guys who just weren't ready to start the game. Physically and mentally," United manager Ben Olsen said after the game. "And they had a bunch of guys ready to play. Sometimes that can be the difference."
Fortunately for the Black-and-Red, their woeful start didn't prevent them from defeating the Union, as United bounced back from an early two goal deficit to win 3-2, with goals coming from Alvaro Saborio, Nick DeLeon, and Fabian Espindola.
From the onset of the game, DC found themselves on the back foot. Local product CJ Sapong fired Philadelphia ahead just 21 seconds into the match, knocking down Steve Birnbaum before firing home for the early lead. Sebastian Le Toux then added to United's misery when his cross for Sapong went untouched, and snuck into the back post.
Two goals in four minutes had the Union flying high, and United lost for words.
"It takes men to play from the start of the game. And we didn't have that from the go," Olsen added.
And just went it looked like United might find a way back into the game as Davy Arnaud was felled in the box for a penalty, Espindola's subsequent moon shot gave the feeling that it just might not be United's day.
Minutes later though, the debutante Saborio did what he's known best for in MLS. Peeling off a defender near the back post, Saborio was in perfect position to get on the end of Chris Korb's cross to volley home to give DC a lifeline several minutes before the interval.
"I think the goal in the first half was very important to us," Saborio told the press after the game. "Because it gave us some confidence to play a little bit higher in the second half, to make the second and third happen. The cross was very good, and I tried to finish it like that."
After the four minute lapse, United eventually spent the rest of the game with the upper hand. But after DeLeon leveled the score midway through the second half, United had to survive Sapong hitting the crossbar before Espindola headed home the eventual winner.
"It's never to give up two goals like that. But all you can do is get over it and keep playing," Korb said post game. "And that's what we did. We slowly chipped away goals, and got that third one late."
Korb was mentioned by Olsen as being part of the group that wasn't ready to play from the opening whistle. His errant pass moments after the game started began the sequence that ended in Sapong's goal. Korb was also unable to close Le Toux down quickly enough to prevent the second goal.
But Korb was able to turn his performance around, and eventually earned himself two assists (including the game winner). Cutting inside of Fabinho after collecting a pass from DeLeon, Korb's first cross was right to Saborio for United's opening goal.
The second assist came on a one-timed effort after being played out wide by Perry Kitchen. With Espindola and Saborio lurking in the box, Korb knew that he just needed to get the ball into the box to make something happen.
"You see [Espindola] and [Saborio] in there, and you just try to pick out one of them, and it worked out," said Korb. "Those two guys are good in the box, so when you see them, there's always a good chance they will score."
With Real Salt Lake heading in town next Saturday, United will need to wary of falling behind again at home. Five times this season United has conceded first but eventually won at home, with a sixth occurrence coming at BC Place against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"We failed to show up in those early minutes, and against some teams, that's not going to cut it," Olsen said as he summed up his team's performance. "Whether you're in the playoffs, or if you're playing a Galaxy or someone on the top of the table. You're done."
"It's been a little bit of a habit, having to come from behind at home. I think we're better than that."