Aug 12, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) celebrates by leaping into the stands after scoring the game-winning goal against Orlando City SC in the final minute of stoppage time in the second half at Audi Field. D.C. United won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
It looked like a 10-man Orlando City side was going to grind out a point at Audi Field.
It almost looked like the Lions would string together consecutive matches with a point.
Instead, D.C. United’s marquee summer signing made a game-saving play. Then provided a match-winning assist.
Orlando City clawed its way back after having a man sent off, and, with second-half stoppage time ticking away, had an opportunity to steal it with an empty net. Instead, star striker Wayne Rooney chased down midfielder Will Johnson and stole the ball before sending a long ball across the pitch and toward the penalty area.
It was headed home by Luciano Acosta, giving Acosta a hat trick and delivering a 3-2 victory for United over Orlando City in the final seconds of the match. The goal was reviewed — video review played a key part in Sunday’s match — but it stood.
“Obviously gutting,” said head coach James O’Connor. “I think when you play like that with 10 men, get back into the game 2-2, create some chances, have a bit of an opportunity at the end and then it turns into a farce. We’re stopping and we’re going to a TV screen.”
O’Connor didn’t fault Johnson on the final play and said the midfielder was exhausted after putting in more than 90 minutes of work against D.C. United.
“When you look at how hard he’s worked and how he handled himself, I don’t think he realizes where he is,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think he may be sure there’s a keeper not in goal and [Stefano] Pinho’s out to the opposite side. You have to give Wayne Rooney a lot of credit for the way he sprinted back and managed to tackle him.”
Orlando City didn’t have time to counter-punch as it had all match.
“The effort was fantastic, from my point of view and also from the coach’s,” said right back Scott Sutter. “A lot of good words to say about the determination that the team showed. Obviously, bitterly, bitterly disappointed to concede so late in the game after going a man down.
“It was a very emotional last couple of minutes. There we were on a counterattack thinking, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to win this game.’ Then, 20 seconds later the ball’s in the net. They’re reviewing it. Just waiting for the crowd to erupt, pretty much, because I knew at the moment things were going against us a I knew it was going to be a goal given.”
After falling behind in the first half, the Lions leveled the match thanks D.C. United own goal. Midfielder Uri Rosell, getting his first match minutes since July 21 after suffering a hamstring injury, made it to the end line and sent in a cross, which bounced off United goalkeeper David Ousted and into the back of the net in the 50th minute.
Sunday’s match was Orlando City’s third in a row with an own goal from the opposing side.
Just when it looked like luck and momentum were swinging in Orlando City’s favor, two video reviews led to the Lions falling behind again.
First, midfielder Cristian Higuita was sent off with a straight red after referee JC Rivero went to the video monitor and determined Higuita’s elbow to the head of United midfielder Yamil Asad constituted violent conduct in the 55th minute.
Then, with the Lions reduced to 10 men, Acosta provided a finish from close range in the 64th minute but was originally ruled offside. His goal – his second of the match – stood after video review.
“You don’t get any explanations,” O’Connor said.
“We were told in L.A. that if it was clear an obvious, then that’s the only time to interfere. If the decision is made and it’s clear and obvious and obvious that it’s a mistake, then you get involved. If it’s not clear and obvious, you’re not meant to get involved. That’s what we’ve been told multiple times.
“My expectation is for the game to be refereed like that, having been told that. Again, I’ll have to see, I’ve come straight from the locker room.”
Still, Orlando City kept battling. O’Connor said he was encouraged by the way the Lions played with 10 men, but must stop shooting themselves in the foot. He added the sending off looked “soft.”
Striker Dom Dwyer, wearing the captain’s armband with midfielder Sacha Kljestan out with an injury, leveled the match in the 71st minute after he chipped Ousted for his 11th goal of the season and third in as many matches.
Dwyer’s play was set up by a through ball from Rosell.
The second half was a change in excitement when compared to a first half that almost ended scoreless.
Orlando City kept D.C. United off the board until first-half stoppage time. After a quick throw-in, Acosta found star striker Wayne Rooney, who quickly played it back to Acosta. He beat City goalkeeper Joe Bendik near post to give United the first goal of the match in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time.
Before that goal, the best opportunity for either side was waved off. Asad headed down a cross from Zoltán Stieber and Rooney pounced on it and headed it home. Asad was offside though and the goal didn’t stand.
Orlando City is off next week and will travel to IMG Academy in Bradenton for a series of closed training sessions. The Lions (7-15-2, 23 points) play Atlanta United on Aug. 24.