The stars were out at RFK Stadium on Wednesday night at D.C. United hosted Italian giants AC Milan in an international friendly—and a spirited crowd of 30,367 spectators were treated to something that’s been almost as rare as a superclub’s visit this season: a United victory.
D.C. rode goals from Luciano Emilio, Chris Pontius and Danny Allsopp to a 3-2 win over the Rossoneri, though the muggy evening’s real highlights were the tricks and flicks of Brazilian idol Ronaldinho and his calcio mates.
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The tourists very nearly drew first blood on their maiden voyage into United territory. Barely a minute after kickoff, a slick interchange between Clarence Seedorf and Ronaldinho culminated in one of the Brazilian’s trademark look-away passes, releasing Alexandre Pato behind the D.C. defense. Young goalkeeper Bill Hamid was up to the task, making a sharp save on Pato’s angled drive.
Milan stroked the ball around the pitch imperiously as Ronaldinho, in particular, looked to delight the crowd with every touch. RFK buzzed in appreciation of the skill that won him FIFA World Player of the Year accolades in years past.
Meanwhile United struggled to sustain possession in the attacking end early on, only to utilize a more direct method to seize a shock lead in the 20th minute. With Milan slow to clear their lines after a free kick, Stephen King had ample time to float a cross to the far post that was headed across the face of goal by Pontius, stranding Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati as Emilio arrived at the back door to tap home from close range.
It was only United’s ninth goal in 11 total matches this year—but the Black-and-Red doubled their pleasure 10 minutes later. The lively Pontius rose to meet a Santino Quaranta corner kick at the near post, beating Abbiati with a header that took a deflection off the back of Milan defender Ignazaio Abate.
Milan looked distinctly nonplussed at the turn of events and first Mathieu Flamini, then a flustered Abate were soon given sharp talking-tos—and in the latter’s case, a yellow card as well—by referee Mark Kadlecik for crude hacks at Pontius.
Ronaldinho remained irrepressible, however, and the bucktoothed legend was sure he’d scored in first-half injury time after breaking free in the United box. He stabbed a low finish past the advancing Hamid, but Rodney Wallace scampered back and cleared the bid off his endline to keep the score at 2-0.
D.C. made wholesale changes at halftime and eventually emptied their bench to give everyone a run-out, while their Italian visitors chopped and changed more gradually as the second half unfolded.
Pato and Ronaldinho, the most notable absentees from Brazilian coach Dunga’s World Cup roster, lit up RFK with another flash of magic early in the second half. Gliding past Devon McTavish, Pato found his elder countryman with an endline cutback. Ronaldinho touched the ball into the air before unleashing a swift overhead kick that left goalkeeper Troy Perkins a spectator. But the lovely shot caromed off the base of the right post as the fans groaned.
The game’s next goal arrived in far more unsightly fashion. Milan right back Massimo Oddo’s underhit back pass exposed goalkeeper Abbiati to pressure from Danny Allsopp, and the Australian blocked the clearance into the net.
Allsopp looked almost sheepish at the scrappy strike, but it switched the Rossoneri into action as they began to pour forward with menace that had been missing for most of the night.
First they earned a dubious penalty kick when the assistant referee judged Curt Morsink to have handled Mancini’s scuffed cross in the D.C. box, with Oddo stepping up to stroke home from the spot.
Kadlecik’s decision to heed his assistant’s call brought boos raining down. And the crowd’s dismay deepened when Brandon Barklage sustained a frightening-looking leg injury in a tangle with Mancini. With United out of reserves, they were forced to finish the evening a man down despite coach Curt Onalfo’s entreaties to the fourth official.
Then Oddo struck again with a long-range drive that wrongfooted Perkins thanks to a late deflection, pushing the score to 3-2. The Italian defender almost registered a shock hat trick with an even better hit minutes later, a blistering full volley that fizzed just over the top.
Milan kept up the pressure but could not break even before the final whistle, though their supporters were hardly disappointed, cheering their stars well after the final whistle and flocking to the sideline when Ronaldinho strolled over and gave his match jersey to a lucky fan.