WASHINGTON - It seems like D.C. United have been making a habit of giving up early goals. And it also seems like they’ve been making a habit of coming from behind to erase them.
Just a week after giving up first and fourth minute goals to the Philadelphia Union and then storming back to victory, United gave up a pair of first-half strikes to Real Salt Lake before storming back to win once again, riding a Chris Rolfe brace and goals from four other contributors to a wild, wide-open 6-4 victory at RFK Stadium on Saturday evening.
The 10 goals are the most-ever scored in a MLS game at RFK and the win stretches United’s lead atop the Eastern Conference. The win also gives them sole possession, for now, of the Supporters’ Shield lead. RSL remain just below the playoff line in the West.
Salt Lake didn’t have to wait long for their opener. In the second minute, Devon Sandoval collected a loose ball at the penalty spot, swiveling before finding fellow forward Sebastian Jaime several yards away; Jaime quickly laid a ball back for Joao Plata, who’s 19-yard far post effort eluded the outstretched arms of United ‘keeper Andrew Dykstra.
In the 22nd minute, RSL struck again. Midfielder Javier Morales picked out Jaime in the box with a free kick. Jaime nodded the ball on towards Plata, who touched it onwards towards Kyle Beckerman. The USMNT midfielder’s goal was sensational, a 25-yard, right-footed attempt that swerved past Dykstra and into the side netting.
D.C. made a push of their own over the final 15 minutes of the half. In the 43rd minute, RSL defender Tony Beltran collected a loose in the area, turning in an attempt to dribble it out of danger. Rolfe met him quickly and did well to strip Beltran of the ball; the former Fire midfielder took a couple of deft touches away from goal before curling his attempt from 14 yards out just inside the far post for United’s first goal.
RSL opened the second half with a pair of speculative attempts, but it would be D.C. that would find the back of the net early on, as they’d find their equalizer from the spot. In the 53rd minute, Bobby Boswell found himself hauled down in the area by Sandoval, and Rolfe stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, confidently striking it just inside the upper 90 and into goal.
They’d pull ahead moments later on an absolute stunner. Taylor Kemp ran onto a loose ball 25 yards from goal and smashed a venomous, left-footed shot that cut a path towards the far post, streaking past Jeff Attinella.
It would be a short-lived lead: in the 62nd minute, a Morales free kick from outside the area found the head of RSL defender Aaron Maund, who redirected the service into goal.
Moments later, D.C. climbed ahead once again. Alvaro Saborio got on the end of a pass from Rolfe, pivoted and sent an attempt goalwards. Attinella parried it away, but did so directly into the path of Fabian Espindola, who slid to tap the ball goalwards. RSL defender Justen Glad arrived on the scene just in time for a goalline clearance, but his heroics were foiled when that very clearance struck Espindola’s left foot and caromed into goal.
Again, though, RSL equalized in short order. Morales dribbled across the top of the area, finding Abdoulie Manually towards the far edge of the area. Mansally took a couple of touches towards the end line before roofing his attempt at goal from a nearly impossible angle, equalizing the match at 4-4.
The offensive fireworks continued in the 69th minute with D.C.’s game-winner. Espindola sent a driven free kick into the box, which defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen rose to meet - his powerful header left Attinella with little chance and sent United home with all three points.
For good measure, United midfielder Nick DeLeon capped the scoring with the game’s third highlight-reel-worthy goal. It was an audacious, driven strike from 30 yards out that cruised past the outstretched arms of Attinella and into goal, capping the scoreline at 6-4.
RSL won’t get long to lick their wounds after this one: they’re facing a CCL encounter against Municipal in Guatemala City on Tuesday, while D.C. will hit the road to take on the Montreal Impact next weekend.