Throughout the 2012 campaign, Major League Soccer faithful have watched the D.C. United-Philadelphia Union bud into one of the fiercest in the League. Those who have followed the four meetings - three in League play and one in U.S. Open Cup Play - have come to know what to expect. Fireworks.
In the final matchup of the season, the 16,024 at PPL Park on Thursday night got nothing short of that. In a storyline made for television, Lionard Pajoy scored the game winner against his former club in the 67th minute on ESPN2.
The goal was Pajoy's seventh of the season - second since being traded to our nation's capital - and pushed the Black-and-Red up two spots into fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With the win, D.C. United (14-10-5, 47 points) is now two points clear of the 6th place Columbus Crew and a point clear of the 5th place Houston Dynamo.
Just 10 minutes after entering as a substitute, Brazilian striker Maicon Santos made his mark on the match with a beautiful forty-yard through-ball to midfielder Chris Pontius. Pontius, the 2012 All-Star Game MVP, also played at PPL Park, beat Union keeper Zac MacMath along the line and sent a floating cross to Lionard Pajoy, who was waiting alone in front of net. Pajoy did well to control the ball off his chest with four men coming at him from different angles. Pajoy made the rest look clinical as he smashed a side volley past two helpless defenders on the goal line looking to bailout their keeper.
"He was so composed on the finish. It was unbelievable," said United midfielder Chris Pontius. D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen also praised Maicon Santos for his role in setting up the goal. "I thought for the most part we hung in there early then Maicon Santos came in and really helped out. I thought he changed the game," Olsen said following the game.
Immediately after scoring, Pajoy ran to celebrate with his teammates along the endline. Aside from the eleven or so celebrating along the north end of the stadium with Pajoy, only the Black-and-Red faithful who made the trek to Chester were cheering. The Union crowd, known as one of the most rowdy and raucous in the League, was silent as they looked on in dismay after their former leading scorer netted the game-winner.
D.C. United have now stolen six points at PPL Park throughout the 2012 campaign and have held the Union winless in League competition this season. United continues its playoff push on Sunday in action against last place Chivas USA.