At the end of the first half on Thursday against New York City FC, D.C. United looked to be in good position to increase their lead atop of the Supporters' Shield standings. Chris Rolfe set up Alvaro Saborio for the halftime lead. But United struggled against a surging NYCFC in the second half, as goals from Tommy McNamara, David Villa, and Kwadwo Poku gave NYCFC the 3-1 win.
Rolfe took advantage of a bad back pass to set up Saborio in the 37th minute, but Poku and Villa proved to be too much for the Black-and-Red in the second half. After a couple of well-timed saves from Bill Hamid, Villa and Poku combined to create McNamara's equalizer. The field tilted after that, setting the stage for Villa's winner and Poku's late insurance goal.
United - who had won three straight - lost for the 8th time on the season, while conceding three or more goals for the second time in 2015 (both in the past three games).
Conor Doyle had an opportunity to put United ahead in the 3rd minute, but a heavy touch ended in a missed opportunity for the 23 year old. Perry Kitchen intercepted a ball in midfield, and quickly played long for Doyle in behind the defense. But his touch in the box was heavy, and Doyle couldn't get a good strike on the ball. The shot still forced NYCFC to clear off the line after the ball took a deflection.
Poku was the danger man for most of the first half for NYCFC, and he was heavily involved in the first chance for NYC. After holding off several challenges, Poku got the ball out wide to right back RJ Allen, who rolled a ball to the top of the box for Mix Diskerud. The US international's shot was blocked by Steve Birnbaum, sparking protests for a handball that wasn't given.
David Villa then went at it alone to carve out a shooting lane in the 22nd minute, only to be denied by Hamid. After taking a ball in from Angelino, Villa got around several defenders to get into the box. The Spanish legend's strike from an angle was parried by Hamid, and United cleared the danger.
Saborio had couple of openings within an eight minute stretch, only to fail to find the back of the net each time. Taylor Kemp's early cross into the box was awkwardly controlled by Saborio, but his shot was weak, and easily held by Josh Saunders. The Costa Rican then failed to get much on a Chris Korb service from the right before he wasted Doyle's early cross, when his header was neither a shot attempt nor close enough for Sean Franklin to get a touch on it in the box.
Bobby Boswell then went high with a header from Kemp's corner, before Saborio netted for his second Black-and-Red tally of the season. Rolfe anticipated a back pass from Andrea Pirlo, and from midfield dragged Jason Hernandez wide while moving towards the box. That allowed Saborio to catch up in the gap left by Hernandez, and Rolfe picked him out in the box to poke the ball past Saunders for the 1-0 lead.
Villa had a golden opportunity to level the proceedings two minutes later, but Boswell was perfectly placed on the line to keep United ahead. Poku had picked up the ball in midfield, and with a surging run made his way into the box. His cut back towards the middle took Hamid out of the play, allowing Poku to pick out Villa. With Hamid yet to recover, Villa's one-timer was blocked by Boswell, who reached back to block the shot.
Villa and Poku continued to combine in the second half to create chances for NYCFC, and moments after Hamid saved Poku's stinging shot, the duo combined to create McNamara's equalizer. Villa's wonderfully placed ball got to Poku in space, and the Ghanaian skipped around a sprawling Hamid in the box. Poku then waited for McNamara in the middle, and played a simple ball across that the former Chivas USA man prodded home for his fifth goal of the season.
In the 62nd minute, Poku and Villa were at it again, with the Spaniard going close with the eventual attempt on goal. A deft touch from Poku was claimed by Villa who made his way into the box, before firing a grass cutter that skipped just past Hamid and the far post.
Poku was denied the go ahead goal two minutes later by the woodwork, as another combination between him and Villa was the source of the chance. Villa timed his run to beat United's offside trap, and worked his way to the end line before picking out Poku at the edge of the six yard box. Hamid was helpless as Poku's shot caught him going the wrong way, but it crashed off the post for a goal kick.
United followed up that near-miss by offering a brief riposte. Rolfe's header from a Doyle cross was held by Saunders, and minutes later Doyle just barely failed to get on the end of Franklin's centering header from Rolfe's cross.
Villa had a half volley in the 72nd minute that was saved by Hamid, before Kitchen had an awkward volley saved by Saunders in the 75th.
United was bending but not breaking in the second half until Villa finally broke through with his 14th goal of the season. A turnover by Saborio was collected by Pirlo in midfield, and the Italian waited for Villa to get back onside before lofting a ball in for Villa. Villa was able to sneak in between Franklin and Boswell, and fired a shot past Hamid for the 2-1 lead.
NYCFC went close to adding a third two more times through Villa and Poku, and finally it was Poku who wrapped up proceedings in the 88th minute with his second goal of the campaign. Picking up a pass in United's half, Poku stormed into the box, got around Boswell, and then fired a shot under Hamid to ensure NYCFC's win.
United, with 44 points from 26 games, heads to Panama next Wednesday to face Arabe Unido for their first game in this year's CONCACAF Champions League. Their next MLS game is on August 22nd, when they host the San Jose Earthquakes.