D.C. United’s match was unfolding in fitting style Wednesday night. Dwayne De Rosario had scored the tiebreaking goal, the 100th of his regular season career, against a bitter rival and his previous employer. United was on pace to seize third place in the Eastern Conference and bolster its MLS playoff portfolio.
But with the mighty swing of Wilman Conde’s right leg — his weaker weapon — from a distant spot, the New York Red Bulls spoiled De Rosario’s evening by forging a 2-2 draw in front of 10,303 at RFK Stadium.
The tie extended United’s home unbeaten streak to 13, equaling the club record set five years ago. D.C. also claimed the Atlantic Cup, given to the team that wins the season series, on a total-goals tiebreaker.
But the outcome felt like a loss and allowed the Columbus Crew, which defeated Philadelphia on a late goal, to pull within two points for the last playoff berth.
“We talked all week about teams earning goals against us and not just giving them goals. They earned one there in the end. He hit a bomb,” United Coach Ben Olsen said of Conde’s blast. “It was a tough one to take for a group that I thought did enough to win.”
United (12-9-5, 41 points) fell behind in the 19th minute on Joel Lindpere’s goal, but answered with Nick DeLeon’s strike two minutes later, assisted by De Rosario. D.C. went ahead when the Canadian forward headed in DeLeon’s long ball in the 68th.
De Rosario made a brave run, challenging goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who was charging off his line. At the top of the box, De Rosario met the ball an instant before the fist-first keeper and nodded it into the vacant net.
“I figured, I am either going to wake up tomorrow wondering what happened or I’m going to put it in the back of the net,” said De Rosario, who joined Jeff Cunningham, Jaime Moreno, Landon Donovan, Ante Razov, Jason Kreis and Taylor Twellman in the 100-goal club.
Since United acquired him from New York in the middle of the 2011 season, De Rosario has recorded 20 goals and 19 assists in 43 regular season appearances. His 12 assists this year are tied for second in the league behind Seattle’s Mauro Rosales (13).
At the end of the goal celebration, he received the game ball and then acknowledged the roaring supporters’ clubs.
Gaudette’s save on DeLeon in the 74th minute preserved a one-goal margin, and then in the waning moments, Conde, the starting left back, smashed a powerful, right-footed shot from 26 yards that crashed into the top corner for his first goal of the season.
The Red Bulls (13-7-7, 46 points), who are winless in their past eight away matches, moved within a point of first-place Sporting Kansas City and kept a five-point cushion over United in the tightly packed conference.
“It’s very disappointing,” defender Dejan Jakovic said. “You feel like the game is yours. You feel like you have three points. You’re stunned, you’re shocked.”
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid had little hope of stopping Conde’s drive, which streaked past a tangle of players.
“It stings,” he said. “We were hungry for this win, and at the same, added incentive to do it for DeRo.”
United notes: MLS fined Olsen an undisclosed amount for comments he made about referee Mark Geiger after United’s controversial 1-1 draw with Philadelphia on Aug. 19. . . . United will play at Real Salt Lake (13-10-4) on Saturday night before having a two-week layoff.