D.C. United had to endure late penalty drama, but in the end, Lamar Neagle’s second half penalty was the difference for the Black-and-Red in their 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. After Jose Ortiz controversially won the penalty, Neagle dispatched the spot kick for United’s first goal in the month of May, breaking a 366 minute scoreless run.
Late in stoppage time, the Whitecaps had a penalty of their own, as Bill Hamid was adjudged to have fouled Brek Shea as Shea won a header in the box. Cristian Techera took the honors for Vancouver, but his effort slammed off of the post, and the Black-and-Red survived what turned out to be over seven minutes of stoppage time to end a three-game losing streak.
Head coach Ben Olsen made four changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the Chicago Fire last week. With a stretch of three games in eight days, starts were handed to Ian Harkes, Jose Ortiz, Kofi Opare, and Luciano Acosta, who was returning from an one game suspension. Olsen returned to the favored 4-1-4-1 formation after last week’s 4-4-2, with Bobby Boswell, Patrick Mullins, and Marcelo Sarvas dropping to the bench. Lloyd Sam was also out of the starting lineup, but wasn’t listed on the bench, due to what Olsen said was a “tight groin” after the match.
Having not scored in their past three games, United got off to a decent start in British Columbia. In the 3rd minute, a long throw in from Chris Korb bounced around in the box, eventually landing at Opare’s feet. The center back had time to line up a shot, but it was straight at goalkeeper David Ousted.
In the 7th minute, Acosta forced a great save out of Ousted, as United put together a well-worked move to create a chance. Lamar Neagle, with the ball out wide on the right, fed a pass in the middle of the field to Acosta. Acosta played in towards the top of the box for Harkes, who sent a little flick into space. Acosta was the recipient of that pass, but his shot towards the top corner was well parried by Ousted at full stretch.
The Whitecaps finally came alive after about 20 minutes, and really should have taken the lead with their first true chance of the game. A ball towards the back post from Fredy Montero found the diminutive Cristian Techera unmarked. Techera beat Bill Hamid with his header, but it smacked off the crossbar. A second chance then quickly materialized, as Montero once again played the ball back into the middle for Techera, but the shot was blocked out for a corner.
From that corner, Tony Tchani headed the ball into the danger area, where center back Kendall Waston did his best to guide a shot on target. The quasi-bicycle kick from Waston bounced off of the woodwork, with Montero whiffing on the rebound attempt and United escaping again.
United’s next chance came in the 32nd minute, and it was helped out by a wonderful pass out wide by Harkes. Finding Taylor Kemp on the left, the pass allowed the left back to line up a cross. That service was deflected, but Ortiz picked the ball up at the back post. Afer having to take a touch to settle the ball on the turf, Ortiz fired a shot towards goal only for his effort to be blocked by Jordan Harvey.
Youngster Alphonso Davies showed off his speed in the 39th minute, chasing down a pass from Christian Bolanos in the box. Davies tried his luck from a tight angle, but with not much to aim for, hit the outside netting.
The ‘Caps then ended the half with several chances to the take the lead, to no avail. First, Bolanos was able to run at goal from near midfield, with no one from United closing him down. That enabled Bolanos to shoot from the top of the box, with Hamid pushing the shot out for a corner. The resulting corner was won by Tim Parker, who did well to direct his header down, but Hamid made an excellent foot save to keep the scores level.
One last chance fell to the Whitecaps to end the first half, as a stumble from Steve Birnbaum gifted a chance to Montero. The ball bounced off of Birnbaum as he fell in the box dealing with an awkward cross from the right wing, allowing Montero to get a shot off from just inside the box. His shot was well hit, but Hamid did well to close the angle, clearing the shot away from danger.
The Whitecaps came out on top to start the second half, but they had to settle for long shots early on. As did United, who had a shot on goal from Neagle in the 49th minute, but it was a speculative effort that Ousted easily saved.
Then came in the penalty in the 60th minute. After Acosta’s dribbling saw the Argentine beat two Whitecaps, he dished to Ortiz, who tried to get through a crowd. Waston had a hand on Ortiz, and Ortiz made the most of the situation, going down theatrically to win a penalty that the Whitecaps furiously disputed.
Acosta looked to take the spot kick, but Neagle took the honors, and placed an unstoppable shot into the upper corner to give United the lead. For Neagle, it was the third successful penalty from three attempts since he joined D.C.
That seemed to reignite Vancouver, and moments after the goal, Parker rocketed a shot from distance on goal, which Hamid could only parry as the ball swerved. It was a sign of the pressure to come as the Whitecaps threw numbers forward.
In the 77th minute, Tchani had a chance score an equalizer, only to be denied by Hamid. Collecting a free kick from Bolanos at the far post, Tchani had an opportunity to shoot from a tight angle as he bore down on goal. His shot was well saved by Hamid, as Tchani crashed into the woodwork, forcing his exit from the game.
Waston won a header in the 81st minute from a corner, and substitute Brek Shea just missed getting a second touch, which almost certainly would have resulted in a goal. A minute later, Montero had shot blocked from a good position, and Hamid was able to make a save on Harvey on the follow up chance.
The Whitecaps once again hit the woodwork in second half stoppage, this time from Shea. A free kick into the danger area teased Hamid off his line, but Shea was first to the ball. As Hamid clattered into Shea, Shea won a header by inches, but his effort hit the crossbar.
Sorin Stoica initially gave a goal kick, but following angry protests lead by Andrew Jacobson, he consulted his assistant referee. After nearly two minutes, Stoica awarded the ‘Caps a penalty, apparently for the collision between Hamid and Shea. Techera stepped up to take the spot kick, but like seemingly every other Whitecaps shot it thumped off the woodwork. This time, the ball slammed off the foot of the post, rebounding away from danger.
That essentially sealed the three points for United, who now sit on 14 points from 12 games. They return to action on Wednesday, when they head to Florida to take on Orlando City.