WASHINGTON – For 89 minutes, it appeared as though the league’s worst team would deal a serious blow to the Philadelphia Union’s playoff hopes.
For 89 minutes, it appeared as though a sublime first-half strike off the foot of D.C. United midfielder Nick DeLeon would hold up, as the home side were the aggressors all evening at RFK Stadium.
Jack McInerney had other ideas.
The Union’s leading scorer, who subbed on in the 73rd minute, nodded a Kleberson cross past D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid in second-half injury time to help the visitors salvage a 1-1 draw on a rainy Saturday night at RFK Stadium. It was his first goal since June 1, a span of 18 matches and 133 days.
The Union (12-10-10, 46 points), who haven’t lost in three matches, didn’t play like a team eager to seize and opportunity against D.C., a side they had beaten twice already this season. Philadelphia currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of New England and tied with Montreal.
United (3-22-7, 16 points), meanwhile, saw their winless streak run to 10 games and have guaranteed at least a tie for the fewest wins in an MLS season (4).
Philadelphia failed to generate much of anything in the opening 45 minutes. Instead, for the second straight match at RFK, United were the aggressors and dominated possession. This time, however, as opposed to a 3-0 loss against Chicago last week, D.C. had something to show for their early pressure in the form of DeLeon’s sublime effort.
The winger's second strike of the year came after he was played into the attacking third by Lewis Neal in the 36th minute. There the second-year player found space between two Union defenders and blasted a 30-yarder into the far upper corner of the net past diving Philly goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
Two of the Union's best chances before McInerney’s goal came in the 38th minute. Forward Conor Casey headed a ball that forced Hamid to show off his vertical leaping skills. The ball deflected back to Casey, who turned around and fired another shot that Hamid cradled into his chest for one of his four saves.
In a wide-open sequence in the 82nd minute, United’s Conor Doyle outraced MacMath in pursuit of a long ball well outside the Philly penalty box, sidestepped the stranded 'keeper and dropped it off for Chris Pontius, but the D.C. veteran fired high over the goal. On the Union’s immediate counterattack, McInerney's blast forced Hamid to make a sprawling stop.
It was a precursor to his equalizer, which kept the Union in the race for at least one more day.
Philadelphia have two more matches remaining in the regular season – both against teams above the red line in Montreal (next Saturday) and Sporting Kansas City (Oct. 26). United, meanwhile, travel to Kansas City on Friday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Nick DeLeon||United's winger was a constant menace along his flank and drifted inside to lash home a superb Goal of the Week contender. His team sagged noticeably when he departed with an injury concern.|
|2||Jack McInerney||Made the most of his 17 minutes on the pitch, drawing a top-caliber save from Bill Hamid moments before nodding home a drought-breaking goal which may prove immense for both him and his team.|
|3||Brian Carroll||In his 300th MLS match, the steady veteran did what he usually does: Anchored Philly's engine room so others could hunt for glory further upfield.|