WASHINGTON — Three red cards, two controversially disallowed goals and a missed penalty by a reigning MVP with the game in the balance. Just another run-of-the-mill outing for rivals D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union.
When the dust settled after a series of hard tackles, lost tempers and focus-altering calls by referee Mark Geiger, the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in front of 12,312 at RFK Stadium, with Brian Carroll's eighth-minute tally being offset by Amobi Okugo's 64th-minute own goal.
With the result, D.C. remained unbeaten at home since an opening night loss to Sporting Kansas City (8-0-3) and retook sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference, while Philadelphia blew a 1-0 lead and missed a chance to secure three necessary points with the club's playoff chances growing slimmer by the game.
While the goals are what decided the result, what happened in the latter stages of the match was cause for controversy.
After Chris Pontius drew a penalty on Roger Torres in the 86th minute, Dwayne De Rosario — with NBC Sports Network's camera's following his every move for the next installment of MLS36 — stepped to the spot and converted.
Geiger whistled for a retake though, with the postgame explanation given to D.C. being that Hamdi Salihi entered the arc atop the box and came within 10 yards of the ball before it was struck. With D.C. players bracing for a retake, Philadelphia attempted to play on, and while Branko Boskovic attempted to retrieve the ball from Torres, he entered a physical altercation with the diminutive Colombian and was given a straight red card. After cooler heads prevailed, De Rosario skied his retake, keeping the score level.
In stoppage time, D.C. was reduced to nine men after centerback Emiliano Dudar entered into a harsh challenge from behind on Antoine Hoppenot, but the Union could not capitalize on the two-man advantage, and they were reduced to 10 themselves when Sheanon Williams was sent off for his second yellow on what appeared to be a clean tackle from behind on Pontius.
All of those events followed Okugo's inadvertent header off Boskovic's dangerous free kick in the 71st minute that cancelled out Carroll's tally. The D.C. goal came minutes after an apparent equalizer was wiped off the board in the 64th minute. Nick DeLeon finished into an empty net after a parried save by Zac MacMath was touched away by both Salihi and Gabriel Farfan. Salihi fell over MacMath, though, with the contact preventing the Union keeper from getting up to try and defend DeLeon's follow-up shot, and the goal was taken off the board.
Carroll, a D.C. midfielder from 2003-2007, marked his latest return to RFK by poking home a ball on the line after a long Freddy Adu free kick in the eighth minute. Adu's 40-yard lofted ball into the mixer pinballed off two players before being inadvertenly headed by Perry Kitchen toward the goal, where Carroll got the final touch.
D.C.'s first chance to equalize came in the 10th minute, when Pontius ripped a blast from 35 yards that was tipped over the bar for a corner. Newcomer Lionard Pajoy, acquired in a trade with Philadelphia for Danny Cruz on Thursday, headed on target off the ensuing corner kick, but MacMath touched it over for another corner.
As the half wound down, D.C. got more dangerous. De Rosario curved a ball from 20 yards just high after smart interplay between Pajoy and Pontius, with Pajoy laying off a ball for the D.C. captain at the top of the box. Pajoy nearly tallied again just before halftime, but Adu headed his header off a corner off the line just seconds before the break to preserve the lead.
D.C. has the task of moving on to a match against the surging Chicago Fire on Wednesday with both Boskovic and Dudar ineligible because of their red card suspensions. The Union have a couple of more days to prepare for life without Williams for another nationally televised contest, when Real Salt Lake comes to PPL Park on Friday.
Here are highlights from the match: