Four minutes after scoring the equalizer Saturday night, D.C. United allowed a late goal and fell to the New England Revolution, 2-1, in a meeting of the top clubs in MLS’s Eastern Conference.
United (5-4-3) lost for just the second time in 10 matches and missed a chance to claim first place.
Fabian Espindola tied the game in the 73rd minute with his team-best sixth goal, but Diego Fagundez struck moments before 13,589 at rainy Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Rookie forward Patrick Mullins, the two-time Hermann Trophy winner from the University of Maryland, scored early in the second half for the Revolution (7-3-2), which has won five straight and extended its unbeaten streak to seven despite conceding a goal at home for the first time this year.
United Coach Ben Olsen‘s options were limited by sickness and fatigue: Top reserves Luis Silva and Conor Doyle stayed home after falling ill late in the week; Chris Rolfe, who had a goal and assist Wednesday against Houston, remained behind with an undisclosed minor injury; and Espindola began the evening on the bench as United entered its third match in eight days.
Midfielder Alex Caskey started for the first time, while Collin Martin, a second-year homegrown attacker from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, made his season debut by starting as a withdrawn forward behind striker Eddie Johnson, who returned from a one-game MLS suspension.
Missing key attackers, United took a defensive posture, absorbed pressure in the early stages and looked to counterattack. New England was menacing but did not test goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Johnson provided D.C.’s first threat, a mild one in the 28th minute on a header from Cristian Fernandez‘s cross. In the 39th, Hamid touched aside an angled effort by Mullins, the No. 11 overall pick in the MLS draft.
Early in the second half, Martin set up Johnson for an acute-angled bid that slipped wide of the far post.
In the 55th minute, the Revolution claimed the lead. Fagundez penetrated the penalty area by darting between several defenders. The ball fell to Mullins, who used two touches in tight space at the edge of the six-yard box and beat Hamid with a low shot for his fourth goal in the past four matches.
Shortly after entering in the 60th minute, Espindola tested goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth with a low drive from 14 yards. Lewis Neal, who played well in a starting midfield role Wednesday, replaced Caskey in the 63rd.
United drew even in the 73rd. Neal sprayed the ball wide to Fernandez, whose low cross took a slight deflection to Espindola for a 10-yard finish. Espindola has been involved in 11 of the club’s 17 goals.
Four minutes later, however, Neal’s failure to alleviate pressure allowed Teal Bunbury to cross from near the end line. A diving Hamid failed to disrupt it. Waiting on the back side, Fagundez finished with authority for his fourth goal of the year.
United’s comeback hopes dimmed in the 82nd minute when Johnson was red-carded after a physical exchange with the fallen Rowe. Johnson, the marquee winter acquisition who has scored just once, will miss next Saturday’s home match against Sporting Kansas City, MLS’s reigning champion.
United threatened to draw even in the 89th minute, but New England’s Steve Neumann, a rookie from Georgetown who had just entered the match, cleared Fernandez’s header off the goal line.
NE: Mullins (Fagundez), 55th minute.
DC: Espindola (Fernandez), 73rd.
NE: Fagundez (Bunbury) 77th.
DCU: Hamid; Korb, Boswell, Parke, Fernandez; DeLeon, Kitchen, Arnaud (Porter 87th), Caskey (Neal 63rd); Martin (Espindola 60th), Johnson.
NE: Shuttleworth; Tierney, Goncalves, Soares, Farrell; Dorman; Fagundez (Neumann 88th), Nguyen (Caldwell 81st), Kobayashi (Rowe 53rd), Bunbury; Mullins.