Makeshift DC lineup relieved to survive bizarre PK sequence
Heading into Sunday’s game against Portland, D.C. United knew they were going to have to buck tremendous odds to become the first MLS team to win a league match at JELD-WEN.
But DC battled back from a bizarre second-half sequence that saw Portland get three chances at a penalty kick to win 3-2.
DC went ahead thanks to rookie Perry Kitchen's goal in the 13th minute, but Portland’s Kenny Cooper won a penalty kick in the 62nd minute. Cooper stepped up to the spot, and goalie Bill Hamid saved the first attempt, but the assistant ref flagged Hamid for coming off his line too early.
On the second attempt, the same thing. Cooper took the penalty, Hamid made the save, and the assistant ref flagged again, giving Portland a third attempt. This time Jack Jewsbury took it, finally converting to tie the game.
“You look all around the world and ‘keepers are farther off, two feet off making saves.” Hamid told MLSsoccer.com. “For some reason they got a third one – not sure why the ref wanted to give a third one. It is what it is — we got the win, and that’s what matters.”
Conceding a goal on the road in a raucous atmosphere could have been a crucial turning point in which DC folded. The Timbers seized the momentum, riding a fired-up crowd for a comeback.
But United answered shortly after in the 75th minute. Midfielder Chris Pontius took a layoff from Josh Wolff, and dribbled into Portland’s box. He cut back, the ball struck Diego Chara’s hand and referee Geoff Gamble pointed to the spot.
It gave former DC goalie Troy Perkins a chance to get one back on his old club. However, Pontius took his penalty well to restore United's lead.
“Troy’s seen me take some penalties in practice and he kind of knows where I like to go,” Pontius said. “I saw him kind of going to [his] left, so I went to my left, and roofed it.”
Substitute Josh Wolff then scored what turned out to be the winning goal 10 minutes later, allowing DC to hold on for a 3-2 win.
“I thought it was phenomenal,” Pontius said of the team’s effort. “I seriously can’t speak enough of my team today.”
Defending set pieces was United’s focus in the run up to the match. It had been something of an Achilles heel for DC in past games, while the Timbers have been making a living off it.
And while Portland scored late following a throw-in to make for a nervy finale, for the most part DC’s defense held firm and looked organized, keeping the Timbers off the board on eight corner kicks.
“We’ve realized we need to buckle down on set pieces, and man-marking,” Hamid said. “We did a good job.”
Making the result even more impressive was the makeshift nature of the starting lineup. Charlie Davies and Dax McCarty didn’t suit up for DC as they battle small injuries, while Wolff started the game on the bench.
“It’s obviously not our [best] lineup, and I thought the players who came in did a phenomenal job,” Pontius said. “They stepped in and didn’t skip a beat.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark