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Despite rally, D.C. United again leave points on the table

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The 2-2 draw with the Red Bulls concluded an undefeated home stand for United, but one in which they picked up just six points from four games

Having seen the New England Revolution lose on Saturday, and Orlando City manage just a point against the Colorado Rapids, D.C. United had the perfect opportunity to put some distance between their nearest rivals for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But with the New York Red Bulls in town, United had to instead settle for a 2-2 draw, one that saw them score twice in a three minute span to come back from a two goal deficit.

As a result, a once promising four-game stand at home ended with a less than ideal total of 6 points for the Black-and-Red. While United was unbeaten in those game, three draws out of four means they're still in a very tight playoff race as the final ten games of the season arrive.

"At 2-0, for us to battle back, it’s gutsy, that’s for sure," manager Ben Olsen said in his post game press conference. "But we want more, we want to push for three points in particular at home. So mixed feelings."

Both sides had to battle harsh weather conditions in the second of three legs in this year’s edition of the Atlantic Cup. After just nine minutes of game time, the weather caused a delay for over an hour. The deluge of rain left puddles all over the field, confusing players as to how the ball would roll on the ground.

United really should have taken the lead in the first half, with Patrick Nyarko wide open in front of goal on a cross from Lloyd Sam. All Nyarko had to do from the doorstep was beat Luis Robles, but instead, the header bounced just wide of the goal.

"I take it personal, because I had a chance that I should have scored there," Nyarko said of the result after the game. "It probably changes the face of the game. We wanted all three points. In that sense, it’s disappointing."

Bradley Wright-Phillips, among the league leaders for goals this season, was the beneficiary of the soggy playing field, making no mistake from a Mike Grella cross after Sean Franklin misplayed a ball in front of his own box. That gave the Red Bulls the first half lead, one which they then built upon in the second half.

When Felipe Martins struck in the 65th minute, it looked like United’s homestand might end with a loss. But Marcelo Sarvas got one back five minutes later from the penalty spot after Lloyd Sam won a penalty kick, and Patrick Mullins completed the comeback in the 73rd minute, heading home from a corner for his second goal with United.

There were chances late for both teams to grab the win, but despite the comeback from United, there was still a sense of disappointment at the final whistle.

"It’s frustrating in the sense that we’ve got to finish out games better. We’ll take some of these ties and move forward," Steve Birnbaum, who assisted on Mullins’ equalizer, said after the game.

There’s still reason for hope for United though. They are in a playoff spot for the time being. After a disappointing four game road trip during July, in which the team scored just three goals, United seem to have found their way to the back of the net. Only the Montreal Impact managed to hold United to fewer than two goals during the set of four games on East Capital St. So in that sense, there’s reason for optimism.

"We’ve come a long way over four games. I like this team, I like our pieces, and I like the way we play," Olsen added after the game. "I like the chances we create. I don’t like having six points. We should have more than six points."

And it’s tough to take much away from Sunday afternoon soccer-wise. The rain didn’t play nicely with the teams, with the field causing all sorts of problems. It was directly responsible for the first goal, and hampered developing plays for both sides on each end of the field. But there was still the opportunity for United to take all three points, but they’ll still need to improve on finishing the chances they create going forward.

"The conditions were pretty poor, and it became a game about [second balls] and going route one," said Olsen. "I thought we started very bright, then the break comes. We have a couple of chances to be one, maybe two up in the first half, and those are important."