The Black-and-Red were in familiar territory last night, they found themselves down 1-0 to the visiting team just 11 minutes in courtesy of Cyle Larin. Orlando looked to be well on their way to avenging that early season loss to DC, but United wouldn’t go away. They got some help from a few super subs and never looked back, not only did they get the equalizer, but they put the game away. That killer instinct hasn’t been seen much by DC this season, last night they took a that step to becoming an even better team by getting the 2-1 result. Kofi Opare provided the equalizer on a set piece and Chris Rolfe netted the go-ahead score on a gorgeous service from Miguel Aguilar.
Earlier this week in a media session, United’s head coach Ben Olsen mentioned that there would be ‘at least one change’ to the starting 11. Several members of the media and surely fans alike assumed it meant that Steve Birnbaum would be returning to his role at centre back. Only Olsen had other ideas, the back line did have a change, but it was Taylor Kemp returning to his role at wide back. Chris Rolfe didn’t start as Nick DeLeon and Michael Farfan joined Arnaud and Kitchen in the midfield. There was a new pairing at the top of the formation as well, with Luis Silva getting his first start of the season alongside Chris Pontius who had been playing midfield more with the return of Fabian Espindola.
Orlando was able to play their style of soccer for most of the first half, sustaining possession and taking the space to create chances in the final third. Rafael Ramos was dynamic from the start, coming up field and joining the attack from his wide back position and putting pressure on DC’s back line. He was able to win in 1v1 situations and create chances for his teammates. KaKa made sure he was a part of everything from early on, coming back to get touches and did very well to combine with others. As a focal point of United’s defense, he did a very good job moving around the formation to get touches. Cyle Larin was impressive, not only did he score their lone goal, but he was able to anchor up front against DC’s back line. He and Opare went at it multiple times, the number one overall pick in this year’s MLS Super Draft looked every bit the part.
The Black-and-Red struggled to combine well in the fist half, but it was evident that they were missing something in the attack. That changed instantly in the second half with the subsitutions made by Olsen. In the 53rd minute, Chris Rolfe came on for Luis Silva. Instantly his impact was felt, he started to combine with his partner up front in Pontius and with many others. He was able to drop down into the middle at times and apply pressure with Kitchen and Arnaud to dispossess Orlando players and quick start attacks.
There was definitely a change in the way United played in the second half, they took over the game and never gave it back to Orlando. The tying goal was scored on a set piece, Kemp struggled with his touch for some of the game but he had it under control on set pieces. After an Orlando foul, Kemp played the ball from the 8 yards outside the top of the box from the right. The ball went to the back corner of the goal where Opare manhandled his defender and won the header for his first goal of the season. Orlando had used Larin’s size on corners and set pieces to defend DC’s bigger targets in set pieces, Opare and Boswell. On this occasion, Opare had someone much smaller on him and he made Orlando pay for it.
Michael Farfan had a tremendous impact on the game, he got the start and beat his defender in 1v1 situations a few times. A couple of which resulted in set pieces for his team. He was replaced by Miguel Aguilar in the 65th minute, five minutes before Opare scored the tying goal. Aguilar was sensational, this was the earliest he had been put into a game this season. He made good on the opportunity, he brought speed and creativity to the field.
Aguilar coupled with Rolfe brought a change to the game, Orlando had held up decently on the defensive end prior to their coming into the game. Rolfe and Aguilar were able to win in 1v1 situations which broke down the Orlando defense and put them on their heels. Aguilar created a couple of chances for Nick DeLeon and Jairo Arrieta. DeLeon had one of his best games of the season as he was tremendous on the ball, taking his time, breaking defenders down and creating scoring chances for teammates.
The go ahead goal came on a great pass from Arrieta to Rolfe, Jairo got the ball on the right side, just outside of the box. He lofted a beautiful pass to the left of the box, Rolfe timed his run perfectly past Orlando’s Turner and got his right foot on the ball to put it past the net minder. It was a gorgeous goal and a beautiful display of soccer. DC showed the ability to do what they failed to do in previous weeks, complete the rally for the result. Show the killer instinct needed to put a team away, that was the biggest difference. Instead of going into an all defense mode and just digging out possessions from the opposing teams onslaught of attacks, they continued to keep their foot down on the gas.
With the game already decided, in stoppage time Perry Kitchen made a play that summed up United’s effort in that second half. He ran down KaKa and took the ball away and then pushed upfield with Kaka hanging on his hip. A foul was called, both players showed sportsmanship as they helped each other up, but Kitchen and company did an outstanding job in the second half limiting his touches.