IMAGE: 10-02 Recap

WASHINGTON — D.C. United have given up several early goals this year. They’ve also scored plenty of late ones. Against New York City FC on Friday night, they did both, and to great effect.
United allowed a first-minute Frank Lampard goal but came on strong in the final twenty minutes of the match, riding a Fabián Espíndola equalizer and a last-gasp Álvaro Saborío game-winner to a 2-1 victory. The win snapped D.C.’s six-game winless streak, and officially qualified them for the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. With the loss, NYCFC have been pushed to the verge of elimination.

A good number of the 21,517 black-and-red-clad fans that braved the sub-optimal conditions at RFK Stadium on Friday evening weren’t even in their seats when NYCFC netted the opener. New York midfielder Andrew Jacobson played a cross to David Villa 20 yards from goal; Villa took a touch before sending in a right-footed effort, which United ‘keeper Bill Hamid parried away. Lampard was right there to gobble it up, his awkward, right-footed volley enough to nab the opener.

Both teams looked eager from the opening whistle, playing an entertaining 20 minutes of back-and-forth soccer. Outside of NYCFC’s opener, however, neither team managed to manufacture any chance of consequence for the first 25 minutes.

NYCFC nearly got their second in the 41st minute on a well-executed counter, as Andrea Pirlo, Mix Diskerud and Villa covered 70 yards in a matter of seconds; Villa’s attempt at goal — a bending, well-placed strike from the near side of the box — skimmed just over the crossbar. The Spanish international took another crack at goal in stoppage time, but his close range effort was inches wide.

D.C. opened the second 45 on the front foot, but early efforts from Perry Kitchen and Espíndola missed the mark; in the 52nd minute, Espíndola found himself in alone on goal and put it home, but was correctly ruled offside. Four minutes later, D.C. attacker Chris Rolfe floated a ball towards Chris Pontius eight yards out, but the UCSB grad's header was handled easily by NYCFC ‘keeper Josh Saunders.

At the 73 minute mark, United finally broke through. Pontius collected the bar near the far sideline, cut inside and whipped a 20-yard shot towards goal. A fully outstretched Saunders got a mitt to it, but couldn’t corral the effort; Espíndola was all too happy to knock the rebound home at point blank range. Espíndola would follow the effort with a headed attempt in the 85th minute, one which missed by inches.

87 minutes in, NYCFC earned a free kick 20 yards from goal, perfectly positioned for Pirlo, among the world’s best from that range. But the Italian’s effort left much to be desired, sailing harmlessly over the crossbar. 

Deep into stoppage time, D.C. got their winner. Espíndola whipped in a free kick from 25 yards, and NYCFC struggled to clear the box. The ball deflected and landed right at Saborío’s feet; the former RSL man tapped it in from close range to send RFK into delirium.

United are headed into a bye week; they’ll get a chance to climb further up in the table when they welcome the Chicago Fire on October 18th. NYCFC have next week off as well, and will face Orlando in their next “must-win” match on the 16th.