Mother Nature smiled on the Black-and-Red Wednesday night, as threatening storm clouds loomed throughout the afternoon, but cleared away prior to kickoff. The clearing weather foreshadowed the night's results, as United continued their perfect record against English sides with a 4-3 penalty kick shootout victory after United and Nottingham Forest finished regulation even at one.
"This was a very good game for us," said United Head Coach Peter Nowak. "It was a different kind of play which is good to play against at this time of the season."
Like a chess match, United and Forest traded possession evenly to open the match, feeling each other out. United's Josh Gros had the first real offensive threat of the match for either side, uncorking a screamer from 40 yards out that Paul Gerrard parried wide to the left. On the resulting corner kick, Ezra Hendrickson nodded home Earnie Stewart's curling service.
Nottingham took control of the pace of the match, but were unable to break through the back line of United. In the 13th minute, Nottingham took a quick freekick, hoping to catch United's defense napping, but Nick Rimando was well-positioned on the near post, collecting the shot easily.
In the 32nd minute, Nottingham finally found a way into the net, with a quick series of passes. Gareth Taylor finished the play, laying off a pass to Andy Reid who buried the shot inside the left post. A quick bit of hustle from Freddy Adu nearly gave United the lead in the 35th minute. Joshua Gros played a long ball through the Forest midfield that appeared to be easily collected by the Reds. Adu flashed between the two Nottingham midfielders, dribbling in unchecked. He was unable to finish the play though, as Gerrard was equal to the challenge.
Both teams brought in a handful of subs at the intermission, but United's acclimation to the humid conditions became apparent. The Black-and-Red took control of the match, threatening to break the deadlock several times throughout the second stanza. Ben Olsen nearly tallied against his former teammates in the 59th minute, but the return pass in his crafty give-and-go with Kevin Ara went just a bit long and was easily scooped up by Darren Ward.
In the 66th minute, United had a pair of stellar chances equaled by a lights-out goalkeeping effort from Darren Ward. Adu sent a rocket towards the left side netting that the Welsh international got behind. The rebound went to Alecko Eskandarian, but Ward was equal to the challenge, having recovered to prepare for the shot.
Santino Quaranta made a long-awaited return to the Black-and-Red, entering the match in the 66th minute for Dema Kovalenko. He quickly linked up with his teammates, sending a dangerous cross into the box in the 72nd minute.
In the waning moments, both teams pressed in an effort to score the winning goal, but neither side could put together the final touch. The most dangerous effort fell to United in the first minute of stoppage time. Streaking down the right wing, Gros cut back into the 18-yard box and fed a nice through ball to Quaranta, but the youngster put his effort just over the bar.
In the penalty shootout, a pair of saves from Nick Rimando gave Olsen the opportunity to seal the win. Olsen calmly stepped up and sent the 13,333 fans home happy, as he placed his penalty into the lower right corner of the net as Darren Ward watched helplessly, diving to the left.
DC - Ezra Hendrickson (Earnie Stewart) 9
NFFC - Andy Reid (Gareth Taylor) 32
Nottingham Forest: Paul Gerrard (Darren Ward 46), Matthieu Louis-Jean, Alan Rogers (Gregor Robertson 72), Wes Morgan, John Thompson, Andy Reid, Andrew Impey (Kevin James 46), Paul Evans (Eoin Jess 46), Kris Commons, David Johnson, Gareth Taylor (Craig Westcarr 76).
SHOTS ON GOAL: 6
CORNER KICKS: 3
D.C. United: Nick Rimando, David Stokes (Alecko Eskandarian 46), Brandon Prideaux, Ezra Hendrickson, Kevin Ara, Earnie Stewart (Bryan Namoff 46), Brian Carroll (Ben Olsen 46), Joshua Gros, Dema Kovalenko (Santino Quaranta 66), Freddy Adu, Jaime Moreno (Mike Petke 46).
SHOTS ON GOAL: 9
CORNER KICKS: 15
DC - David Stokes (caution; Professional Foul) 20
NFFC - Paul Evans (caution; Dissent) 41
NFFC - Gregor Robertson (caution; Reckless Foul) 84
Referee: Mark Geiger
Assistant Referees: George Vergara; Kenneth Kaplan
4th Official: John Schmitz
Time of Game: 2:01
Weather: Partly Cloudy, 74 degrees