WASHINGTON — D.C. United earned dramatic 3-2 win over ten-man Orlando City SC Sunday night thanks to a Luciano Acosta hat trick.
“I am still trying to process this,” coach Ben Olsen said. “It was a pretty wild night.”
With six minutes of stoppage time clicking away, Olsen made a desperate last-minute attempt to regain the lead.
In hockey, coaches of the losing team will make a call to pull the goalie. Usually, in the final minutes of the game, the coach signals to the netminder to come out, as he swiftly adds in an additional forward.
What’s common place in the 200-feet ice rink, is quite rare a feat on the 115-yard pitch. But that is exactly what Ben Olsen chose to do in the 95th minute of United’s match against Orlando.
“[Olsen] called me up, and I just wanted to get something on it,” goalkeeper David Ousted said. “Then it went the other way.”
“No risk, no reward,” Olsen said after the match going up an octave at the end of his sentence. “We need points. This isn’t about tying at home right now.”
On the final corner of the match, all eleven United players gathered in the attacking third. One heart-stopping moment turned into another when Orlando midfielder Oriol Rosell cleared the ball over 30 yards off the line. Twenty-three-year-old Acosta turned to run after the ball, but Wayne Rooney halted him and made the run instead.
“[Rooney] said, ‘no, no you stay here. I will go,'” Acosta said with a chuckle. “I looked at him like, ‘you are going to run all the way back?’ He made that play and gave me the assist.”
The 32-year-old legend did what only legends do. Sprinting 60-yards back, Rooney tackled the Orlando attacker. The run was a jaw-dropping feat, but the Englishman wasn’t done yet. Rooney won the turnover and recorded the assist for a jumping Acosta’s third and final goal.
VAR played a large part in Sunday’s match, getting called upon five times, including the final goal confirmation.
“From what I hear they did a good job with the VAR tonight,” Olsen said. “I have my rose colored glasses on because we won. In the end, if they got the decisions right, it is a good night for VAR.”
The minute the confirmation came through, Rooney fell to the ground. Olsen walked over to the fallen Rooney and quickly lifted him up telling him, “make sure this game finishes this way and we don’t have to walk out with one point.”
“We went from losing the game to winning in the span of five seconds,” Rooney said. “I tried to anticipate something like that happening because I have seen it before in football.”
D.C. United started the game in similar fashion, earning a stoppage-time goal from midfielder Luciano Acosta assisted by Rooney to open scoring.
Prior to Sunday’s match, United was 3-4-2 after scoring first, and looked doomed to sacrifice crucial points at home.
“When we step back from the emotion of the game, which is tough to do, we definitely fouled up some moments there,” Olsen said. “We almost let some crucial points slip again against a team that is down on their luck.”
Heading into the half on a high, D.C. quickly found itself on defense against an energized Orlando City. Five minutes into the half, Orlando forced an own goal to even the score.
Then things got…weird.
Midfielder Yamil Asad fell to the ground in the 55th minute and, after VAR, referee Jose Carlos Rivero showed midfielder Cristian Higuita a red card for violent conduct on Asad. Higuita appeared to refuse the punishment and remained on the pitch for several more minute until teammate Dom Dwyer gave him a friendly guiding push.
Losing Higuita and going down a man, put an even larger strain on Orlando who was without Sacha Kljestan, Yoshi Yotun and Jonathan Spector.
United took advantage of the extra man in the 68th minute when Asad sent a ball forward to Acosta. Five-feet-three-inch Acosta leapt into the air, connecting his right foot with the ball and sending it into the net.
Originally, Rivero waved the shot offsides, but made the all too familiar square VAR sign for the third time in the match. He eventually awarded Acosta the goal.
Less than ten minutes later, Dwyer chipped the equalizer over Ousted’s head. But its not over until its over.
United stole all three points in a crucial match against Orlando.
“To not get three point today would have been a tough blow, especially with some tough teams coming to town,” Olsen said.
Acosta recorded his first hat trick of his United career Sunday.
“I am happy. Mainly surprised. I never thought I would score three goals,” Acosta said. “We needed those three points. That is what I am most happy about.”
United is back home Wednesday, hosting the Portland Timbers in the second of three matches in eight days.