WASHINGTON -- It was a full 15 minutes beyond the final whistle before Ben Olsen finally made it back to the team tunnel, faint streaks of blood from his star forward’s brow scarring his white button-down shirt.


30 minutes later, new D.C. United captain Wayne Rooney surfaced in the dressing room with five stitches dotting the bridge of his freshly broken nose.


No doubt, D.C. wasted plenty of opportunities to make their Saturday night easier before grinding out a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on a late own goal. For Olsen, though, the grittiness of his team’s response to Kellyn Acosta’s 82nd-minute equalizer made it all the sweeter.


“At that point, guys have to look within,” Olsen said in his post-match press conference, after changing into a black team polo. “You’ve seen us at times lose leads this year. What I’m most pleased about on the night was, obviously the three points, but the way we got it.”


United had already lost 16 points from winning positions heading into Saturday’s fixture against Colorado, and dropping two more after Rooney scored his first goal in a D.C. shirt would’ve been a damning blow to their playoff hopes.


Instead, after Acosta and his teammates seized upon a D.C. giveaway to pull level in his Rapids debut, the Black-and-Red threw numbers forward to manufacture a 90th-minute winner. Substitute Ulises Segura was the last player D.C. to hit it from the right flank, before it caromed off Niki Jackson and past wrongfooted ‘keeper Tim Howard.


The job still wasn’t done. By the time it was, blood gushed from above Rooney’s eye after he lowered his head to help clear Colorado’s last corner.


“I don’t think it’s the first time he’s bled,” Olsen said. “It shows you what this means to him right now. He’s in the box, putting his face on the line, understanding that’s a big moment. They’re good on set pieces, and we needed that play to get us out of that spot.”


D.C. remain 11 points beneath the playoff line with 16 matches to play, several games in hand over the six teams above the line. But it’s better than a deficit had they split the points with a Colorado side that has only earned five on the road this season.


“I think the next 16 games, obviously every game is important,” midfielder Russell Canouse said after his first start of the season. “But obviously, any time you win you want to start a run and continue to build on it. So I think that’s our goal going forward.”


Said Olsen: “Psychologically it’s huge for our group. A tie is a tough result tonight. And that’s the reality for everyone in that locker room.”