CHESTER, Pa. — D.C. United’s Lionard Pajoy made it a memorable PPL Park homecoming.
In the 67th minute, the former Philadelphia Union forward scored the game’s only goal to lift visiting D.C. United to a crucial 1-0 victory over rival Philly in a nationally televised Eastern Conference showdown Thursday night.
With the win, D.C. United (14-10-5, 47 points) leapfrogged the Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew into fourth place as they battle for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.
Meanwhile, the ninth-place Union’s winless streak was extended to eight games, a span in which they’ve scored only four times.
D.C.’s goal came after Chris Pontius made a move in the box, forced Union goalie Zac MacMath to come out of net and fed an open Pajoy, who took the time to settle the ball and then volley it into an empty net.
It was the seventh goal of the season for Pajoy, who scored five for the Union before being traded to D.C. for Danny Cruz on August 16.
Before that, both teams struggled to generate much offense, in part because the Union were without suspended playmaker Michael Farfan (yellow card accumulation) and D.C. were missing the injured Dwayne De Rosario, one of the league’s best players.
The Union’s best chance in the first half came in the 15th minute, when Antoine Hoppenot fed Jack McInerney, who pushed a close-range shot wide. But the Union didn’t get off any shots on target on the first half, while D.C. United had only one, from Pontius.
The action picked up early in the second half, when a rebound from a McInerney long-range shot landed right at the feet of Hoppenot in front of net in the 52nd minute. But D.C. goalie Bill Hamid was able to make the save to preserve the scoreless tie.
Three minutes later, D.C. United had their own chance to break the tie when Pajoy hit a cross from Branko Boskovic over the bar.
In the 62nd minute, McInerney got his head on a long ball from midfielder Gabriel Gomez but Hamid came up with another save.
Later, the Union brought in a trio of offensive-minded players in Josué Martínez, Chandler Hoffman and Freddy Adu but could not find the equalizer despite pushing numbers forward. In the 89th minute, Hoffman’s spinning touch on the ball skirted just wide as the Union fell to 7-14-6 on the season.
D.C. United have now beaten the Union twice at PPL Park this year, while losing to their I-95 rival in the U.S. Open Cup and tying them in league play at RFK Stadium. D.C. also snapped a six-game road losing streak with Thursday’s result.
Both the Union and United have quick turnarounds. Philly will host conference rivals Houston on Sunday (4 pm ET, MLS Live), while D.C. will take on Chivas USA later that afternoon (7 pm ET, Galavisión) - PURCHASE TICKETS.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)