Since 1996, D.C. United has played almost 450 matches across 22 regular seasons, 13 playoff appearances, the annual U.S. Open Cup and about 60 others in friendlies and international competition. Here are 20 games that stand out:
20. Sept. 24, 2011, vs. Real Salt Lake
Dwayne De Rosario assists Andy Najar’s 13th-minute goal, then records a hat trick over nine minutes of the first half, the fastest three-goal performance in MLS history. Acquired in midseason for Dax McCarty, DeRo goes on to win the MLS MVP trophy with 13 goals and seven assists in 18 appearances, despite United’s failure to make the playoffs.
19. June 10, 2007, vs. New York Red Bulls
Ben Olsen is known for grit and hustle, especially late in his career after injuries ravaged his ankles. But in a matinee match against United’s archrivals, the rowdy midfielder pumps in goals in the 15th, 72nd and 84th minutes, the last coming from distance to cap his only career hat trick. He would go on to play two additional seasons.
18. Oct. 20, 2012, vs. Columbus Crew
In the penultimate regular season match, United needs only a draw to clinch a playoff berth and end a five-year postseason drought. Marcelo Saragosa scores the equalizer on a long-range one-timer early in the second half and, with time running out, Lewis Neal busts into the clear for a goal that unleashes years of pent-up frustration.
17. Sept. 23, 2017, vs. San Jose Earthquakes
In an otherwise forgettable season for both player and team, Patrick Mullins makes MLS history by needing just 31 minutes to score four goals in the second half. Before this outburst, the oft-injured striker from the University of Maryland had not scored in 2017. A few days later, he adds a goal on the road against the Red Bulls.
16. Aug. 1, 2015, vs. Real Salt Lake
This is downright nuts: United falls behind 2-0 early and wins, 6-4, with seven goals coming after intermission and nine over a 64-minute stretch. The match is tied 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4. Four goals come from beyond the penalty area. Only Chris Rolfe records more than one. United would need its next eight league matches to total another six goals.
15. May 26, 2010, vs. AC Milan
It’s just a friendly, but facing one of the fabled clubs of Europe and Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho before a crowd of 30,367, this is more than an exhibition. Luciano Emilio, Chris Pontius and Danny Allsopp score before Massimo Oddo gets two back for an Italian side that had finished third in Serie A and reached the Champions League round of 16.
14. July 28, 2012, vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Another friendly, another international superstar visiting East Capitol Street. Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes his PSG debut and, in the third minute, toys with the hosts and scores on a powerful shot from 16 yards. The video posted on YouTube by United’s communications staff receives 1.5 million views. United battles back to earn a 1-1 draw.
13. Aug. 27, 1997, vs. New England Revolution
Marco Etcheverry is a left-footed wizard with the capacity to pick out the top corner on a set piece and serve flawless crosses. He also controls the ball as if it is tethered to his toes, as he shows in winning the 1997 award for MLS goal of the year: five touches between two defenders while maintaining balance and concentration.
12. Sept. 3, 2008, vs. Charleston Battery
United wins the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in 12 years, defeating the second-tier opponents, 2-1, on goals by a pair of Brazilians: Luciano Emilio and Fred. The latter breaks a 1-1 deadlock early in the second half. A year later, United would return to the final but lose at home to the expansion Seattle Sounders. D.C. would win it again in 2013 at Real Salt Lake.
11. Oct. 30, 1996, vs. Rochester Rhinos
United has already won the inaugural MLS Cup 10 days earlier, defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-2, in extra time in Foxborough, Mass. To complete the double, D.C. needs to remain focused on a second-division side. No problem: Raul Diaz Arce, Eddie Pope and Jaime Moreno score in a 44-minute span as United lifts another trophy after a 3-0 win.
10. Nov. 14, 1998, vs. Vasco da Gama
In MLS’s infancy, consequential matches against well-known outsiders are rare. (They still are.) As 1998 CONCACAF champions, United faces the Copa Libertadores winner in the InterAmerican Cup. Vasco wins the opener at RFK, 1-0, before 26,216. The second leg is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with D.C. prevailing, 2-0, in Bruce Arena’s final match as coach. Second-leg video:
9. Aug. 22, 2007, vs. New York Red Bulls
Jaime Moreno converts a penalty kick early in the second half for his 109th regular season goal, surpassing Jason Kreis for the league’s career record. He would play three more seasons and score in his 2010 farewell match. His 133 goals are tied for third with Chris Wondolowski, one behind Jeff Cunningham and 12 back of Landon Donovan.
8. Nov. 13, 1999, vs. Columbus Crew
Coming off a 4-2 away defeat in the second leg of the three-game Eastern Conference finals, United roars to a 4-0 victory and secures a place in MLS Cup for the fourth time in four MLS seasons. Marco Etcheverry assists on the first three goals and knocks home a free kick near the end. Roy Lassiter’s two goals include a bicycle kick. “We played such a perfect game,” goalkeeper Tom Presthus says. Eight days later, D.C. wins a third title.
7. Oct. 2, 1996, vs. New York/New Jersey MetroStars
After an inconsistent regular season, United and MLS truly take hold in Washington in the inaugural playoffs. After losing the Eastern Conference semifinal opener in a penalty-kick tiebreaker at Giants Stadium, United wins Game 2 at home, then advances with a 2-1 victory in the third match. The MetroStars had equalized in the 86th minute, but Raul Diaz Arce converts a penalty kick with 83 seconds left. Well after the final whistle, about 1,000 fans invaded the pitch in celebration. United would go on to defeat Tampa Bay in two games and stun Los Angeles in the final.
6. Aug. 16, 1998, vs. Toluca
Before it became the CONCACAF Champions League, the prime regional competition was known as the CONCACAF Champions Cup. In 1998, the eight-team tournament takes place in Washington. After smashing Trinidad and Tobago’s Joe Public, 8-0, United defeats Leon, 2-0, in the semifinals on Roy Lassiter’s goals, then edges Toluca, 1-0, on Eddie Pope’s first-half goal. Since then, MLS has won CONCACAF’s biggest trophy just once (Los Angeles in 2000).
5. Aug. 9, 2007, vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
A crowd of 46,686 does not turn out for just another late-summer match. Most are there to possibly witness David Beckham’s MLS regular season debut. Unclear whether he will play because of a sore ankle, the English superstar enters in the 72nd minute. United wins, 1-0, on Luciano Emilio’s 27th-minute goal, but the Beckham era has begun — and MLS would never be the same as he brings glamour and global attention to the league.
4. April 3, 2004, vs. San Jose Earthquakes
In the 61st minute of the season opener, a 14-year-old named Freddy Adu makes his pro soccer debut. Soon, he is world famous. It is not a fairy-tale career, however. Amid clashes with Coach Peter Nowak, Adu lasts only three seasons in Washington (posting 11 goals and 17 assists). He goes on to play for 12 more clubs in eight countries over 10 seasons. Currently, at age 28, he is without a team.
3. April 20, 1996, vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Following two defeats to start the inaugural season, United begins its 22-season residence at RFK Stadium. The lineup includes five of Bruce Arena’s former University of Virginia players. A spirited crowd of 35,032 is in attendance to watch first-tier pro soccer 12 years after the NASL folded. Raul Diaz Arce scores an early goal, but the Galaxy soon ties it and then goes ahead in the 72nd minute. Another loss for United, but a victory for soccer in the nation’s capital.
2. Nov. 6, 2004, vs. New England Revolution
The Eastern Conference final has it all: a big crowd, a nighttime backdrop, outstanding goals, big-time performances by big-time players, three D.C. leads, three New England comebacks and, ultimately after the 3-3 draw, a penalty-kick tiebreaker that ends with United’s Nick Rimando thwarting an attempt by a 21-year-old rookie named Clint Dempsey. Eight days later, United wins its fourth MLS Cup title by defeating Kansas City in Carson, Calif. Full match:
1. Oct. 26, 1997, vs. Colorado Rapids
The site of the MLS Cup was selected months in advance, but there was always a good chance that reigning champion United would end up playing for the trophy in its home grounds. United does its part in the playoffs, and on a cold, rainy day, D.C. repeats with a 2-1 victory on goals by Jaime Moreno and Tony Sanneh. An electric sellout crowd of 57,431 is the largest in club history. As years pass, sections of the lower level disappear, in part because of the Washington Nationals’ arrival from Montreal. Capacity drops to about 46,000. RFK would never see a crowd like that again.
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