IMAGE: Team v. Union

United open Suncoast Invitational with 2-1 victory over Union

A late-game goal from Luciano Acosta helped propel D.C. United to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. The win was United’s first of the 2018 preseason.

The game was a back-and-forth battle that opened with the Black-and-Red controlling possession and pushing the attack forward in the opening minutes, peppering Union goalkeeper John McCarthy from multiple angles including two early corner kicks.

United found the back of the net first when Darren Mattocks headed in a ball from Zoltán Stieber to make it 1-0 in the 14th minute. After finding space well outside the box, Stieber picked out Mattocks making a run toward the far post and dished a perfect ball in, setting up Mattocks to head it past McCarthy. The goal was Mattocks' second in as many preseason matches.

“I saw [Stieber] lift up his head and saw the ball going right at the back post where I just nodded it in,” Mattocks said. “He’s a good player and when you play with good players the rest is easy. We’ve already got a pretty good connection and he already knows my style of play. Hopefully that keeps going throughout the season.”

Philadelphia battled back, though, and began to increase their possession time in United's half of the field. Their most dangerous chance came when forward CJ Sapong charged into the box and drew a foul from Ulises Segura that resulted in a penalty kick. Keeper Steve Clark denied Sapong, the Union’s leading scorer in 2017, on an impressive reflexive save, though, and the Black-and-Red maintained the 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

After more back-and-forth action in the final 45 and almost full lineup changes for both sides, the Union finally found their equalizer in the 88th minute when Corey Burke tucked in a feed from Adam Najem. The Black-and-Red weren't done yet, though, as just one minute later Acosta intercepted a pass, carried it into the box, and fired a shot that beat the keeper to put United back on top.

Acosta’s goal was his first of preseason and secured United’s first win of 2018. The Black-and-Red will continue their preseason training in Clearwater, Fla., this week, then play their second friendly of the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational on Wednesday, Feb. 21 against the Jacksonville Armada.