D.C. United was running out of time against Los Angeles on Saturday night, when Charlie Davies accelerated into the penalty area, determined to overturn a one-goal deficit in front of the largest regular season home crowd in three years.
Omar Gonzalez, the Galaxy’s towering center back, tried to stay with the sleek forward and reached out with his left arm. There was contact, but not much. Davies fell — and referee Abiodun Okulaja fell for it.
Davies converted the 90th-minute penalty kick, salvaging a 1-1 draw before 26,622 at RFK Stadium.
After entering early in the second half, Davies scored his MLS-leading fourth goal (three on penalties) in three appearances. On his cheeky effort, he chipped the ball into the heart of the net as goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts committed to a corner.
To celebrate, Davies leapt onto an advertising platform behind the net and attempted to open the driver’s side door of a locked car on display.
Predictably, both subjects involved in the controversial decision offered differing views.
“I know I am much quicker than Omar, so I was able to get him off-balance and take a touch by him,” said Davies, who missed last weekend’s match at Colorado with a strained groin. “I was definitely going to be by him until he threw out his arm and put it right into my chest and knocked me off-balance.
“Nine times out of 10, the referee is going to call a penalty there, and we were fortunate enough to get that call.”
Said Gonzalez, a former University of Maryland star: “I knew where Davies was going and sort of went that way. I put my arm out and he just flopped.”
Galaxy players charged at Okulaja after the pivotal play and again when the chaotic match ended. Forward Jovan Kirovski was shown a red card for abusive language after the final whistle.
“We were positioned to get the three points and it was taken from us unfairly,” Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said. “Unfortunately, it’s becoming a pattern [with MLS officiating]. It hasn’t been good. Hopefully it will get better because it’s impacting a lot of games.”
Despite the late recovery, United Coach Ben Olsen was disappointed with his club’s performance against the Galaxy (2-1-2), which played without the injured Landon Donovan. The U.S. World Cup hero took a knock on the knee last weekend, didn’t practice during the week and remained in California.
“I’m happy we battled back and found a way to get a tie, but overall it’s not good enough,” said Olsen, whose club didn’t test Ricketts until the 75th minute. “We were maybe fortunate.”
United (1-2-1) played the last six-plus minutes with 10 men following Santino Quaranta’s ejection.
Maryland’s Ethan White, among three rookies in the D.C. lineup, made his regular season debut and showed well in central defense. In the 35th minute, with goalkeeper Bill Hamid out of position, he cleared Mike Magee’s shot off the goal line.
Without Donovan, the Galaxy’s attack centered on David Beckham, who has fond memories of RFK, the site of his MLS debut in front of more than 46,000 four years ago. These days, although he doesn’t attract as much mainstream attention for the league, he maintains a notable presence, supplying Galaxy forwards with set pieces and long balls.
In the 12th minute against United, Beckham’s corner kick located Magee for a six-yard header and a 1-0 lead.
United played with energy and commitment but lacked a menacing quality, relying on speculative balls to create opportunities.
The tone turned testy late in the half. Quaranta was cautioned for a rough challenge on Juninho and Beckham was fortunate to not be ejected for a tackle from behind on Josh Wolff, an incident that sparked a heated exchange between the 35-year-old Englishman and Quaranta.
In need of a lift in the second half, Olsen called on Davies, then Andy Najar, then Branko Boskovic. United’s finest chance came in the 75th when Ricketts made an outstanding reflex save on Chris Pontius’s eight-yard header.
After Quaranta received his second yellow card, Boskovic’s pass led Davies into the left side of the box. With a clever crossover move, he gained a half-step on Gonzalez, who nudged the forward. Davies tumbled, Okulaja pointed to the spot, and the Galaxy fumed.
United note: Defender Perry Kitchen, who returned Thursday from U.S. under-20 duty and was set to start, was a late scratch because of illness.
l REAL SALT LAKE 2, REVOLUTION 0: Chris Schuler and Paulo Araujo scored goals and Real Salt Lake won its third straight to start the season, beating host New England. The Revolution was unbeaten, too, with a win and three ties coming into the game.
Schuler, a central defender making his second start, headed in a corner taken by Collen Warner from the left side in the 27th minute.
l SOUNDERS 2, FIRE 1: O’Brian White scored his second goal in two games and set up another to lift host Seattle.
l UNION 1, RED BULLS 0: Roger Torres scored as a second-half substitute and gave Philadelphia a home win over New York.