As the clock wore away for D.C. United against the New England Revolution, it looked like Lamar Neagle's first half penalty kick would be the only tally the Black-and-Red would need for their second win on the season. The Revs were pressing for an equalizer, but had not truly challenged Travis Worra's goal.
Any anxiousness was put to rest though in the 86th minute, as Luciano Acosta, relegated to the bench as United look to find their way early in the season, scored a chipped goal from all of 20 yards out. United added another through Alvaro Saborio to pad the scoreline in a 3-0 win over the Revs.
A big sigh of relief for United's marquee offseason addition.
"I needed a bit of a confidence boost," Acosta said through an interpreter after the game.
Joining United from Boca Juniors in February, Acosta immediately stepped in as a start in the CONCACAF Champions League, and then had starts in the first three MLS games. But after the draw against the Colorado Rapids, Acosta has only appeared as a substitute.
But in both of United's wins this season, he has had an impact in closing out the games. Against the Vancouver Whitecaps, he assisted on both late Saborio goals. And then tonight, he added his own bit of magic.
"That's what he does. That's why he's here. He's got a lot of magic in him," United assistant Chad Ashton, who was filling in for the suspended Ben Olsen, said after the game. "He's got to pick and chose the times to do it, but you've seen it already in the little glimpses he's played. He can pull off the big time play, and it was timely for us."
A long ball played up to Saborio helped relieve some pressure United was facing in the dying moments of the game. But given an opportunity, Saborio quickly picked his head up and found Acosta. Acosta wasted no time making his way towards goal, and from 20 yards out, elected to chip over Bobby Shuttleworth, who slightly was off of his line. Acosta's lob was inch-perfect, barely avoiding Shuttleworth's despairing leap and kissing the crossbar before settling into the back of the net.
It was an emphatic way to score a first MLS goal, and even more importantly, it gave United all three points.
"I saw him a little off the line and I took the chance to chip him, and it went well," said Acosta.
Saborio then went on to score his third goal of the season in stoppage time, a goal that came after the assistant referee was, after a conference, overruled by referee Alan Kelly. And it was another feather in the cap for Acosta and Saborio earning time together.
"It suits [Acosta] better to have a typical number nine. He's a guy who is going to find seams. He comes underneath, and he can spring someone with a great pass," Ashton said of Acosta. "Tonight he showed you he can score goals too. It's definitely better for him when you have a classic number nine that plays in between the two center backs."
"It's great that we have guys that can come off the bench and score," Neagle told B&RU. "Lucho and Sabo seem to have something going, and it's always a plus when you have guys that come off the bench confident, and can contribute to the game."
The question now is whether or not Saborio and Acosta have done enough to earn a start. Fabian Espindola exited in the first half with a hamstring injury that will have to be evaluated before the team knows the extent of the injury. But if he's unable to go next weekend against the Chicago Fire, Acosta and Saborio might have just done enough to earn a start together.
"Everyone always wants to start. That's a decision the coach makes, and I respect it," said Acosta. "But I'm happy to be here, happy to be playing."