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D.C. United ends three-game skid with comeback victory over Philadelphia

D.C. United midfielder Kevin Paredes, right, challenges Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya on Saturday at Audi Field. (Tony Quinn for The Washington Post)

D.C. United arrived at a critical juncture Saturday, needing to end its worst stretch in three months before a pause in the schedule. The last thing Coach Hernán Losada needed during this encouraging MLS season was a rut to fester for at least two more weeks.

Losada received what he wanted, a 3-1 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Union that ended a three-game losing streak and provided three badly needed points heading into the break.

“It was very necessary before the break,” he said. “The boys showed a lot of character and a lot of personality, and that makes me very happy.”

The result, before 16,593 at Audi Field, also halted a 10-game winless streak in the regular season against the Union that had started more than four years ago and included two defeats in 2021.

“It’s a big win,” said striker Ola Kamara, who scored the first-half equalizer. “If we had lost this game, the vibe in the group would be very different these next 10 to 14 days.”

Yordy Reyna scored the go-ahead goal less than five minutes after intermission on a terrific side volley following one of several outstanding saves by Philadelphia’s Andre Blake.

Win, lose or draw, United (9-10-3) was going to retain seventh place and the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. By earning three points, though, D.C. pulled within one of Montreal and created a three-point cushion over Columbus and Atlanta with 12 games left.

United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was slated to return to the lineup after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered Aug. 4 in Columbus, but on Friday he tested positive for the coronavirus, two people close to the situation said. Hamid is vaccinated and asymptomatic, those people said.

For the fifth consecutive match, Jon Kempin started in Hamid’s place. Kempin, a 12-year MLS veteran in his first D.C. season, had not performed well but continued to receive the starting nod ahead of Chris Seitz, another longtime keeper.

United conceded 10 goals in three defeats last week, and though not all were Kempin’s responsibility, Losada was looking for a much better individual performance Saturday.

Kempin was not at fault when, against the run of play, Philadelphia (8-6-8) went ahead in the 22nd minute. Captain Alejandro Bedoya’s cross took flight, caromed off the chest of retreating D.C. captain Steven Birnbaum and flew into the net. It was the fifth own goal United has conceded this season.

Before and immediately after the goal, United dominated possession and opportunities.

“I don’t think there is any team in this league that plays at the level we played in the first half, especially the first 20 minutes,” Losada said. “We were a team from another league.”

Blake made two sensational saves, on Julian Gressel in the 14th minute and Reyna in the 28th. The latter was a breathtaking gem as Blake flashed to his right, leaving Reyna holding his head in disbelief.

“Their best player,” Losada said, “was the goalkeeper.”

United received a penalty kick in the 36th minute following video replay. Referee Rubiel Vazquez reviewed the play and determined Alvas Powell had upended Reyna.

Kamara converted into the low left corner as Blake dived the other way, keeping him among the top five scorers in MLS with 12 and continuing his resurgence. In 2019 and 2020 combined, Kamara scored seven goals in 27 appearances for United.

Reyna provided the lead in the 49th minute. Gressel swung in a terrific cross to Kamara making a near-post run. Blake made a fabulous reflex save, but the ball fell in the six-yard box for Reyna, who used a side volley while falling for his fourth goal, all in his past six appearances.

With United facing persistent pressure for much of the half, Losada added three reinforcements in the 78th minute, including another center back (Frédéric Brillant). United shielded Kempin, won aerial challenges and maintained composure.

Substitute Ramón Ábila secured victory deep in stoppage time, using clever footwork and the outside of his right foot to beat Blake from close range. Initially, believing he was offside, Ábila held up for a moment, then he continued to attack. Video replay confirmed the goal.

The victory, Losada said, brought “happiness and joy, and it gives a lot of energy for everything that’s coming. It’s really incredible we couldn’t win for such a long period.”

Notes: Edison Flores (Peru), Andy Najar (Honduras) and Júnior Moreno (Venezuela) will report to their respective national teams this week for World Cup qualifiers. They are due back for United’s away match Sept. 11 against the New York Red Bulls. ...

Winger Paul Arriola missed his second consecutive match with a strained left hamstring; he hurt the right one while with the U.S. Gold Cup squad. United is aiming for him to return Sept. 11.

Defender Donovan Pines (foot injury) also seems on track to return after the international break.

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