Playing the first of seven regular-season matches without captain Dwayne De Rosario, it was the unlikeliest of sources who thrust D.C. United into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, while conversely eliminating New England from playoff contention.
Midfielder Lewis Neal’s 63rd-minute goal proved the difference in D.C.’s 2-1 victory against the Revolution on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. United (13-10-5, 44 points) snapped a three-match winless streak while New England (7-15-7, 28) lost for the first time in three matches.
Neal, who subbed on for Branko Boskovic in the 56th minute, had played only 420 minutes for United before opening his MLS account with the go-ahead strike.
The play developed when midfielder Chris Pontius (who recorded a goal and an assist) made two strong moves on the left side of the box and centered to Neal, who quickly sent a left-footer by diving Revs captain and goalkeeper Matt Reis.
The goal helped extend D.C.’s unbeaten streak at RFK to 14 games, while New England – who previously recorded two straight clean sheets – lost their fourth straight road match and are winless away from Gillette Stadium since March 31.
In the 85th minute, D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a diving stop on New England’s Kelyn Rowe, searching for his second goal of the contest, to keep United ahead. The Revs followed with two dangerous attempts, as United appeared out of sorts defensively in the final five minutes, but were unable to convert. The Revs recorded 27 attempts on goal to United’s 12.
New England took the lead in the 29th minute when Rowe snuck behind left back Chris Korb and ran onto a through ball from midfielder Diego Fagundez. Rowe found himself alone with Hamid and drilled it high, deflecting in, just under the crossbar for his third of the year.
United answered three minutes later when Boskovic, given all sorts of time outside the area, dropped a ball for Pontius, who wore the captain’s armband in De Rosario’s absence. The team's leading scorer blasted a low-lining right-footer past Reis for the equalizer. The goal was Pontius’ first since Aug. 4 and his 11th of the season.
United next will visit Philadelphia on Thursday night while New England will play host to New York on Saturday.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)