For the second week in a row, D.C. United wasted a first half lead, and for the second week in a row, the Black-and-Red had to settle for a lone point at home, this time in a 2-2 draw with the Philadelphia Union. Seconds from defeat, center back Steve Birnbaum powered a header home across the face of goal for United, who squandered Taylor Kemp's first half strike.
Tranquillo Barnetta smashed home a free kick from distance just before the end of the first frame, after Kemp had gone on a solo run from his own half to put United ahead in the 16th minute. Former D.C. stalwart Chris Pontius then put the Union ahead in the 57th minute, scoring his first goal against his former side. Ben Olsen was sent off late for United, and a barrage at goal late on led to the Birnbaum equalizer.
With Marcelo Sarvas suspended, and Jared Jeffrey injured, Olsen opted to play Rob Vincent as his defensive midfielder, the first time that Vincent has been deployed in that role in his first season in the nation's capital. Lloyd Sam was the other change for United, moving Nick DeLeon back into the center of the midfield.
Birnbaum had the first shot to get the game going in the 4th minute, as Sam won a corner early on for United. Sam took the subsequent set piece, and Birnbaum won the header in the middle, but his header was saved easily by the Union's Andre Blake.
Two other set pieces from United failed to result in a chance, and then at the other end, left back Fabinho caused some chaos in United's box. In the 11th minute, Fabinho got around the defense near the end line, whipping in a cross on the ground that Kemp had to step in front of Barnetta to clear the chance out.
And then Kemp stepped in front of a wayward pass in the 16th minute in his own half, and began a run towards the Union box. Kemp stepped around a challenge from center back Ken Tribbett near the Union box, before working his way in, and firing a low shot from a tight angle that skipped under the outstretched hand of Blake.
The Union almost hit back immediately, as Keegan Rosenberry made his way down the right hand flank for Philly. Finding an opening, Rosenberry slid a cross through the box, where Pontius was able to fire a shot away. But that effort was blocked by Sean Franklin, who made a last ditch attempt to block the shot.
A quick throw in led to a shot from range from Barnetta, but the shot was never going to trouble Bill Hamid in goal. But in the 25th minute, a chip over the defense from Rosenberry put Barnetta with the ball in the box. The former Swiss international elected to play the ball back for Fabian Herbers, but the rookie blasted his shot well over.
Luciano Acosta just missed getting on the end of a cross from Patrick Mullins, before Richie Marquez, center back for the Union, headed a corner from Barnetta wide from six yards out.
United should have gone ahead by two in the 42nd minute, but Mullins, a week removed from his first goal for the Black-and-Red in his first start, wasted a chance from DeLeon. DeLeon was the recipient of a loose ball in midfield, and quickly picked his head up and chipped over the back line for Mullins. The striker was in on goal, but shot with his first touch, sending a shot wide with Blake scrambling back to cover his goal.
That miss was compounded three minutes later, as Barnetta leveled the scores just before the start of first half stoppage. With a free kick from about 40 yards out, Hamid took two steps towards where he thought the free kick would be sent in to for a header. Barnetta anticipated this though, and rifled the ball the other way, beating Hamid before the keeper could recover.
Hamid atoned for his mistake early on in the second half though, denying CJ Sapong on the doorstep. A counter attack was started by Herbers, who quickly made his way towards United's goal from his own half. Herbers played out wide to Barnetta in the box, allowing Barnetta to pick Sapong out in front of the goal, but the one-timed shot was saved by Hamid.
Seven minutes later, Hamid was left helpless as Pontius victimized his former team. A poor turnover from Luciano Acosta gifted Ilsinho the ball just outside of United's box. Ilsinho drew Birnbaum towards him, waiting to find the opening for Pontius, slipping the ball to the former United man, who calmly slotted home for the 2-1 lead.
In need of a victory, United then struggled for most of the rest of the half to find the all important equalizer. In fact, it was Pontius who had a look to add to the Union's lead, only to be denied by a diving Hamid at the near post.
As time wore down, United began to push more and more numbers forward, opening themselves up to counter attacks. But as the Union failed to capitalize, United were kept alive, even if they couldn't find a way past Blake. Patrick Nyarko's cross skipped past Blake in the 81st, but Acosta couldn't pull the trigger at the far post.
Lamar Neagle then fired wide in the 83rd minute, as Olsen was then sent off in the 85th minute, for arguing a non call on Acosta. After drawing the ire of referee Jair Marrufo all game, Olsen was finally ejected with his team's season teetering on the edge.
In stoppage time, substitute Kennedy Igboananike was denied by Blake, with Neagle's follow up from eight yards out also stopped by the acrobatic Blake. Birnbaum had a header saved in the 92nd minute, before Bobby Boswell's half volley from a corner was blocked by his own teammate.
United weren't going to leave empty handed though, as their pressure finally paid off in the 94th minute. A corner from substitute Julian Buescher was cleared out, but United kept the ball in the attacking half. Nyarko sent in a desperation ball to the far post, where Birnbaum called off Neagle to head past Blake for the late equalizer.
Despite efforts from both teams, neither could find a winner in the last minute of the game, sending each team home with a point in which they both led.
United, with a record of 5-8-9, host the Portland Timbers at home next Saturday at RFK Stadium.