Lloyd Sam’s first half strike gave D.C. United hope, but the Black-and-Red’s inability to close out games on the road reared its head again, as New York City FC scored three times in a crazy final 10 minutes to win 3-2 on Thursday night. After Lamar Neagle leveled the scores in the first minute of stoppage time, Frank Lampard popped up in the dying embers of the match to fire home his second goal of the game.
Luke Mishu, filling in for the injured Taylor Kemp, gifted David Villa the equalizer with an errant back pass. Lampard then gave NYCFC what looked to be a sure win in the 85th minute, with his 10th goal on the season. Neagle’s header in stoppage time gave United hope, but Lampard made United pay for not being able to see out the game, scoring the winner in the 93rd minute.
Ben Olsen made three changes to the side that beat the Chicago Fire last week, with Kofi Opare joining Kemp as missing out due to injury. Jalen Robinson stepped in for Steve Birnbaum, who is away for international duty, while Mishu replaced Kemp at left back. Rob Vincent started in place of the suspended Jared Jeffrey.
A week after netting his first career hat trick as a professional, Patrick Mullins nearly had United ahead after two minutes. Luciano Acosta had a free kick on the left blocked, but his second attempt at a cross curled in just in front of goal. Mullins was there in front of his defender, but directed his header over the mark.
In the 13th minute, Acosta and Mullins nearly connected once again, with Acosta’s cut back just too far out in front of Mullins. Sam played a ball towards the end line in the box for Acosta, who one-timed a pass in front of goal. Mullins was charging in, but couldn’t reach the ball in time to turn it in for an opening goal.
Andrea Pirlo had a look from distance for the Pigeons in the 13th minute, as he kept alive a cross that was blocked in the box. Feinting around a challenge from Rob Vincent, Pirlo shot from outside of the box, but Vincent did just enough to recover to deflect it wide of the goal.
On a counter attack three minutes later, David Villa skipped around a challenge from Acosta at midfield, and was off to the races. Drawing attention on his run, Villa waited to play out wide to Thomas McNamara. McNamara cut in, and fired a right footed shot that forced Bill Hamid to push the ball over from a corner.
That resulting corner broke for United on the counter attack though, as Mullins won a header at the top of the box. The ball fell to Vincent, who made his way down the field. Looking to play Sam into the box, Vincent stumbled, but still got the ball to the winger, only for Sam to drag his shot just wide of the post with Saunders beaten
New York City had five corners in the first half, and Maxime Chanot should have made the one in the 27th minute count. A simple run into the middle of the box was rewarded by Pirlo, but the center back could only guide his header away from goal.
A long throw in on the short field from Mishu caused chaos in the box in the 30th minute, as City keeper Josh Saunders flapped at the throw-in. His second attempt at claiming the ball was equally unsuccessful, allowing Bobby Boswell to shoot, but his effort was blocked out before reaching the goal.
Six minutes later, United finally found the breakthrough courtesy of Sam’s first goal for the club. Acosta caused a turnover at midfield, and then waited patiently for Nyarko to get open for a pass slipped through three defenders. Mullins made a selfless run down the middle to open space up, and Nyarko’s cross-field pass found Sam, who took one touch before tucking under Saunders for the lead.
A pass from midfield by left back RJ Allen opened Villa up in the 41st minute. That pass got Villa moving towards goal behind United’s backline, where he made his way down the left hand flank. But from a tight angle, Villa’s shot was held by Hamid, who did well to prevent a follow up opportunity.
Mullins had a golden opportunity to give United a two goal advantage with the last touch of the first half, only to be denied by Saunders. A long ball forward from Nyarko allowed Mullins to fight off Frederic Brillant to win the ball in the box, but his shot was expertly palmed over by Saunders.
City had two cracks at a header early on in the second half, as the Pigeons worked a short free kick routine just outside of the box. Pirlo’s pass was popped up into the box by Frank Lampard, but Brillant’s header was blocked. There was a second opportunity for second half substitute Federico Bravo, but his header bounced wide of the goal.
Vincent, as he is wont to do, took aim from range when the opportunity presented itself in the 52nd minute. A ball in the box was knocked out to Vincent, who rifled a left footed shot, but Saunders was equal to the effort.
Sam should have doubled his tally in the 58th minute, as he failed to capitalize on a cross from Nyarko. Saunders tried to clear a long ball well outside of his box, but United were able to keep the pressure on. Acosta played out wide to Nyarko in the box, and Nyarko’s centering pass traveled through the box to Sam at the back post. Sam could have beaten Saunders with an effort on target, but the shot skipped just wide of the post.
Lampard, who was recognized before the game for recently scoring his 300th professional goal, just missed stretching out for an equalizer in the 64th minute. A ball out wide by Pirlo found Jack Harrison on the left. Harrison one-timed a cross into the middle of his fellow countryman, but the ball was just out of reach from Lampard.
United could only half clear a corner in the 66th as Vincent just missed getting around the last defender in his own half. That allowed Steven Mendoza, who came on as a sub at halftime, a look at goal. His left footed effort from the top of the box was on target, but straight to Hamid, who easily claimed.
Robinson had a vital block on Lampard in the 73rd minute, sliding in to block the midfielder’s shot as he broke into the box. Robinson again made a timely block in the 76th minute, denying Villa an equalizer. Pirlo’s ball out wide to Allen was crossed in, but Robinson was right on Villa to force the shot wide.
And just went it looked like United would find a way to escape New York City with a win, it was their own error that lead to Villa’s equalizer. Mishu had the ball in an attacking position down the left, but when left with no options, tried to play a long pass back to Hamid. Villa was anticipating that, and easily intercepted what turned out to be a ball equidistant between Hamid and the center backs. Villa made no mistaking slotting past Hamid for the equalizer in the 79th minute.
NYCFC smelled blood, and five minutes later it all fell apart for the Black-and-Red. Substitute Khiry Shelton battled Nick DeLeon for a ball heading out of bounds, sliding in to poke a hopeful pass into the middle of the box. Villa couldn’t get a shot away, but the ball dropped fortuitously to Lampard, who fired home from 12 yards out to score what seemed to be the winner.
But United had just enough fight left in them to grab a goal back in stoppage time. Julian Buescher, who had entered for Acosta, won a corner with a howitzer of a shot from 22 yards as the clock hit 90 minutes. The German midfielder took the resulting corner, whipping in an outswinging cross to the middle of the box. Neagle soared over Federico Bravo to nod past Saunders for a stoppage-time equalizer.
A crazy game still had one more twist in it, and it was not good news for the visitors. Moments after Villa got away with an attempt to elbow Robinson in the face, Shelton slipped a ball into the box for Lampard, who this time anticipated the slide from Robinson. Cutting back, Lampard was all alone with just Hamid to beat, and made no mistake in firing in for all three points.
The Black-and-Red, with 32 points from 27 games, return to action on September 11, when they travel to New Jersey to face the New York Red Bulls.