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D.C. United squander chances, falter in second half in 2-0 defeat to Orlando City

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Cyle Larin and Giles Barnes took advantage of United’s misfirings in front of goal

D.C. United had a chance to extend their unbeaten run away from home to four games, but instead fell 2-0 to Orlando City SC on Wednesday night in Florida. After squandering several chances of their own, United succumbed in the second half to a header from Cyle Larin, and a howler from Bill Hamid which handed Giles Barnes the final tally.

United had picked up points on the road against the New England Revolution, Atlanta United, and the Vancouver Whitecaps in their recent travels. That’s quite the contrast to their home form, where they have lost three in a row, failing to score a goal in any of them.

With just four days between matches, United head coach Ben Olsen made four changes for the clash against the Lions. Jose Ortiz was suspended for his simulation against the Vancouver Whitecaps, while Ian Harkes, Sebastien Le Toux, and Chris Korb rested on the bench. In stepped Chris Odoi-Atsem for his first career start at right back. Marcelo Sarvas, Julian Buescher, and Lloyd Sam started in the midfield, as Olsen switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

United, who were coming off a somewhat surprising win on the weekend against the ‘Caps, nearly got off to a good start in the first minute. A cross from Odoi-Atsem for Neagle was barely cleared out for a corner. Kofi Opare won the header from Buescher’s corner, but was not able to guide the effort on target.

Will Johnson and Carlos Rivas combined for City’s first opening in the 5th minute, exchanging passes just outside of the box. Johnson eventually left it for Rivas, who had a shot blocked by Opare. But with United unable to clear their lines, and Rivas had another go; Bill Hamid saved comfortably.

Matias Perez Garcia lifted a pass into the box for the Lions in the 21st minute, which Rivas collected. Quickly playing towards the middle, Rivas’ pass was just behind Cyle Larin, who only got a slight touch trying to shoot. Another opportunity popped up for Rivas, but his curling effort was always wide of the goal.

United combined a couple of passes on the left hand side in the 25th minute, working an opening that found Acosta going towards the middle of the field. Acosta quickly found Jared Jeffrey, who had plenty of room thanks to the overload on the flank. Jeffrey shot low and hard from well outside the box, but Joe Bendik was quick to get down and parry the shot away.

Opare did well to cut out a cross headed towards Rivas in the 26th minute, with Bendik doing likewise for Orlando moments later, as Acosta looked for Lamar Neagle on a counter attack.

A slow rolling shot from Perez Garcia was saved by Hamid in the 40th minute, before Buescher put Bendik to work three minutes later. After the keeper failed to corral a free kick in the box, Buescher picked up possession in the box, and shot on a swivel, with Bendik diving to make a save on the goal-bound shot.

Despite conceding a possession advantage to Orlando, United had the first couple of good looks to start the second half of the game. Right off of the bat, Odoi-Atsem played a ball into the box, which ended in Buescher having a 10 yard bid blocked before it tested Bendik.

Buescher then had a golden opportunity to give United in the lead in the 56th minute, but the German wasted his chance at the far post. A break from Sam led to Odoi-Atsem once again getting the ball down the right flank. A cross was deflected to Neagle, who quickly moved the ball along to Buescher. With just Bendik in front of him though, Buescher skied his shot way over the goal, failing to test the keeper.

Perez Garcia then had a shot blocked from inside the box in the 63rd minute, as Danny Toia, rushing forward, slammed a half volley wide of Hamid’s goal. Neagle followed that with a look from a Kemp cross a minute later, but the striker’s effort was well over, as he attempted to volley the shot despite the space to settle and pick his target.

The goal for Orlando finally came in the 66th minute, and it was down to United’s inability to defend a set piece. After substitute Giles Barnes won a free kick on the side of the box - following what looked to be negligible contact with Buescher at best - Johnson whipped in an inviting free kick into the danger zone. Though Steve Birnbaum was all over Larin, the Canadian striker showed his strength to get to the cross, nodding past a helpless Hamid for the 1-0 lead.

Five minutes later, Rivas and Perez Garcia nearly made it two for the Lions, who looked certain to put United away. With Barnes pushing the play, Rivas was played in towards goal, but had the ball clipped away before firing a shot. That ball then popped out to Perez Garcia, but with Hamid diving at his feet, the midfielder screwed a shot wide of goal.

The Black-and-Red should have had their equalizer in the 74th minute, thanks to a poor back pass from center back Jose Aja. Neagle cut the pass off, skipping around Bendik outside of the box. Neagle settled himself for a shot, but his was denied on the line by Jonathan Spector, who appeared to stop the ball with his trailing hand. A rebound seemed to be falling towards the substitute Le Toux, but Bendik miraculously recovered to knock the ball away before it fell into the net.

Hamid’s gaffe late on prevented any hope of a late equalizer. Barnes collected the ball in United’s half, and sent a hard shot that had little chance of beating Hamid. However, Hamid was nonchalant with the shot, and the shot slipped out of his hands, slowly dribbling into the goal for the 2-0 advantage.

United, with 14 points from 13 games, return to action on Saturday, hosting the LA Galaxy at RFK Stadium.