VANCOUVER, B.C. - The leaders in the West and the co-leaders in the East served up an exciting feast of soccer at BC Place on Saturday evening, but it was D.C. United who fought back from conceding an early Pedro Morales goal to come away with a 2-1 victory over a 10-man Vancouver Whitecaps side.
D.C. tied things up through a 9th minute Bobby Boswell header, before Chris Rolfe hit the winner in the 64th minute. In his return to the lineup after a six-match suspension, Fabian Espindola was perhaps United's key influencer on the night.
The victory sees DC United (4-1-2; 14 points) move to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, while Vancouver (5-3-1; 16 points) maintain a two-point lead at the top of both the Western Conference and the race for the Supporters' Shield.
The game got off to a fast paced start and Vancouver took the lead just 70 seconds in when Octavio Rivero's cross found an unmarked Morales just inside the box and the 'Caps captain hit a perfectly controlled volley for his first goal of the season.
D.C. responded quickly and were back on level terms seven minutes later when Boswell shook off his marker to powerfully head home a Michael Farfan cross.
Farfan came within inches of giving United the lead in the 39th minute when his chip over Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted landed on the roof of the net.
Vancouver's hopes were dealt a blow three minutes before the break when Matias Laba clipped Espindola's foot as he raced into the 'Caps half of the field, a foul which led to his second booking of the match, sending him to the showers early.
Despite the man disadvantage, the Whitecaps started the second half strongly, but Ousted was forced to come up with two big saves in the 54th minute to keep things tied up.
First, Espindola raced in on goal forcing Ousted into a sprawling save. But as good as that save was, the Dane's acrobatic tip on a fierce Rolfe shot from the resulting corner was even more spectacular.
The visitors grabbed what was to be the winner in the 64th minute when the Vancouver defense couldn't deal with a quick breakaway and the ball fell to Rolfe, who buried it past Ousted from just inside the box.
Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson made attacking substitutions to try and salvage something from the game, but despite chances from Rivero and Sam Adekugbe during a frenetic stoppage time, D.C. held on for the win.
Vancouver will now look to get back to their winning ways on the road next Saturday when they head down to Portland for their second Cascadia derby of the season (10:30 pm ET, TSN and RDS2). D.C. will return home next Saturday to take on Columbus in an Eastern Conference matchup (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).