Pontius scores in United’s 1-1 tie at Portland


D.C. United’s Nick DeLeon tries dribbling past Portland’s Rodney Wallace. (Getty Images)

Chris Pontius converted a controversial penalty kick Saturday night as D.C. United extended its unbeaten streak to four and took a small step toward the MLS playoffs with a 1-1 away draw against the Portland Timbers.

United (15-10-6, 51 points) is fourth in MLS’s Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Columbus Crew and two in front of the Houston Dynamo. Five clubs will advance to postseason. Each club has three matches remaining.

United didn’t receive any help earlier in the night. New York (53 points), Houston (49) and Columbus (48) won at home, increasing the pressure on United to gain at least a point against the Timbers (7-15-9).

With the match scoreless early in the second half, United was awarded a penalty after a delayed whistle. Perry Kitchen‘s cross might have grazed the underside of defender David Horst‘s arm. Referee Michael Kennedy didn’t see a violation. As play continued, one of Kennedy’s assistants signaled a handball. The Timbers fumed.

Pontius converted into the left side in the 60th minute for his team-best 12th goal of the year.

The Timbers answered in the 79th. United’s Andy Najar slid deep in the box to block Steven Smith‘s cross, but Bright Dike pounced on the free ball and lifted a tightly angled shot over goalkeeper Bill Hamid to end D.C.’s shutout streak at 320 minutes.

United will visit Toronto FC (5-19-7) next Saturday afternoon.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.

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Steven Goff · September 28, 2012