United ends skid at three on Neagle’s penalty kick
D.C. UNITED 1, WHITECAPS 0
After three consecutive defeats at home and a scoreless rut that eclipsed 360 minutes, D.C. United ached for some good fortune Saturday at BC Place.
It arrived in the form of a favorable decision early in the second half and four Vancouver Whitecaps shots that struck the goal frame, including Cristian Techera’s penalty kick deep into stoppage time that left United with a 1-0 victory.
Lamar Neagle converted his penalty-kick opportunity in the 61st minute as United (4-6-2) recovered from an awful homestand and stretched its unbeaten streak on the road to three matches.
Bill Hamid was exceptional in net, making several sensational saves. However, in the dying moments, he was beaten to a free kick by Brek Shea. As Shea’s header crashed off the crossbar, Hamid’s two fists crashed into Shea’s head.
While medical staff attended to Shea, referee Sorin Stoica conferred with an assistant linesman about the collision. Stoica awarded the penalty. Techera’s attempt, however, stung the base of the right post, and United was able to kill off the last few minutes against the Whitecaps (5-6-1).
“I am really proud of the guys, the way they hung in there,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We hung on Bill a little bit, again a little bit more than we would like, but you need that on the road. We also got a little help from the crossbar. It was never going to be easy to get out of this losing streak. It was gutsy.”
Olsen altered his formation and personnel. He returned to a five-midfield, one-forward set after using two players up front in the 1-0 defeat to Chicago last weekend. Luciano Acosta returned from suspension, pairing in central midfield with Ian Harkes.
Jose Guillermo Ortiz supplanted Patrick Mullins at striker, Sebastien Le Toux replaced Lloyd Sam (slight groin strain) on the right flank and Kofi Opare bumped Bobby Boswell (groin) in central defense.
United got off to a bright start as Acosta combined with Harkes, whose back heel set up the Argentine for a 22-yard effort that drew a soaring save by David Ousted.
Vancouver dictated play the rest of the half and created four outstanding opportunities: Hamid made sterling saves on two of them, the crossbar thwarted two others.
In the 19th minute, Fredy Montero crossed to Techera for a five-yard header off the bar. A minute later, Kendall Waston flicked an eight-yarder off the frame. Late in the half, Hamid made a reaction save with his right foot on Tim Parker’s six-yard header and blocked Montero’s eight-yard one-timer after a fortuitous carom off United captain Steve Birnbaum fell into the forward’s path.
United went ahead on Neagle’s first goal of the year, ending the team’s scoreless streak at 365 minutes.
Acosta linked with Ortiz at the top of the penalty area. Ortiz began to accelerate past Waston, his Costa Rican national teammate. Waston reached out and grabbed Ortiz’s midsection for an instant. Waston’s action wasn’t egregious, but enough to disrupt Ortiz’s dash and prompt the forward to take a tumble. Stoica pointed to the spot, drawing howls of protest from the Whitecaps.
Neagle, United’s leading scorer in 2016, pocketed the penalty kick into the top left corner.
The Whitecaps turned up the heat, but United endured pressure and Hamid made a fine save on Montero.
United notes: Forward Alhaji Kamara, on loan to the second-division Richmond Kickers, recorded a hat trick in a 25-minute span during a 5-3 loss at Ottawa. Both he and on-loan midfielder Chris Durkin played 90 minutes . . . . Defender Sean Franklin (hamstring), midfielder-defender Nick DeLeon (hernia surgery) and midfielder-forward Rob Vincent (blood clot) remain sidelined.