WASHINGTON – A frenetic late second half push came up short for D.C. United, who saw their playoff hopes come to a crashing end with a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers.
Midfielder Dwayne De Rosario’s goal canceled out a first half Kenny Cooper strike for the Timbers, who stayed alive in the postseason hunt with the result, but now must hope that Philadelphia beat New York outright on Thursday in order to have a chance at advancing.
The home side had more at stake, as anything but a win would officially end any hopes of making the MLS Cup playoffs. With that in mind, D.C. deployed an attacking lineup that started the game looking to press that issue.
But after a tempered start, it was Portland that struck first in the 24th minute. Former D.C. defender Rodney Wallace provided the service, looping in a cross that found the head of Cooper. The big man – who had squandered multiple chances against Houston last Friday – made no mistake and nodded past Bill Hamid for his eighth goal of the season.
Needing two goals to salvage their season, D.C. began to pressure Troy Perkins’ goal after conceding. Andy Najar made a scintillating run, cutting between two defenders down the left wing, but his finish in the box was easy for Perkins to handle.
While United pushed forward to little effect, Portland found ways to be consistently dangerous on the counter, testing Hamid multiple times. The improvised 4-3-3 that John Spencer’s side trotted out generated a number of chances, but also ended up giving D.C. plenty of room to work with in the midfield.
That was eventually punished by De Rosario in the 72nd minute. Despite nursing a right ankle injury, the Canadian international received a Josh Wolff pass with his back to goal at the top of the box, pivoted on defender Eric Brunner, and unleashed a left foot shot that beat Perkins at his near post.
Following De Rosario’s goal, D.C. threw caution to the wind, getting numbers into Portland’s penalty area in hopes of breaking the deadlock. Portland, meanwhile, kept compact in front of Perkins’ net, looking to spring on the counter. Both sides ended up generating plenty of chances.
Both Khalif Alhassan and Cooper had opportunities to strike on the break, but opted to fire from distance, narrowly missing Hamid’s frame. That was followed by a clear chance for Brian Umony, but his shot hit the crossbar and was cleared away. Two minutes later, Umony could have given the Timbers the win by squaring to Bright Dike in a 2-on-none break, but opted to shoot instead, and saw his effort blocked by Hamid. In between, De Rosario had a penalty shout waved off when he’d gotten past Futty Danso in the box.
Moments later, Dike was saved again by Hamid, and D.C.’s Blake Brettschneider had a possible game-winning goal waived off for offside.
It kept coming, though to no avail. De Rosario beat Perkins to a flick and rounded the keeper, only to have a sure goal blocked by Brunner. Deeper into stoppage Joe Ngwenya had a last-gasp effort saved by the superb Perkins, who then was able to spring up and block the follow-up effort as well.
D.C. (9-12-12, 39 points) finish their season on Saturday when they host Sporting KC. Portland (11-14-8, 41 points) head to RSL that same night for their final game of the year.
If the Red Bulls lose on Thursday, a Portland win at RSL would see the Timbers into the postseason.
POR -- Kenny Cooper 8 (Rodney Wallace 2) 24
DC -- Dwayne De Rosario 16 (Josh Wolff 7) 73
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace (Mike Chabala 79), Eric Alexander (Brian Umony 63), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, James Marcelin, Kalif Alhassan, Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 84).
Substitutes Not Used: David Horst, Jorge Perlaza, Steve Purdy, Jake Gleeson.
D.C. United -- Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Ethan White (Joseph Ngwenya 89), Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard (Austin Da Luz 71), Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Santino Quaranta, Charlie Davies (Blake Brettschneider 51), Dwayne De Rosario, Josh Wolff.
Substitutes Not Used: Stephen King, Kurt Morsink, Clyde Simms, Joe Willis.
DC -- Brandon McDonald (caution; Tactical Foul) 58
POR -- Bright Dike (caution; Reckless Foul) 85
DC -- Austin Da Luz (caution; Reckless Foul) 90
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: -C.J. Morgante; Frank Anderson
4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivero
Time of Game: 1:50