D.C. United were quite unhappy about a second-half penalty awarded to hosts FC Cincinnati on Thursday night in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs. Emmanuel Ledesma converted the spot-kick in the 54th minute, canceling out Lucas Rodriguez's first-half goal. However, instead of being put off by the call, United responded in aggressive fashion, scoring three second-half goals to win 4-1 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
Rodriguez added his second of the game five minutes after Ledesma's penalty, before Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola scored insurance goals later in the half. The win for the Black-and-Red ended a streak of just one win in nine games for D.C., while handing them their fourth win away from the District in 2019.
Head coach Ben Olsen had just one surprise in his starting lineup, which was otherwise the same as last week's draw against the New England Revolution. Bill Hamid was on the bench, for the first time in a league game this year. In his place was Chris Seitz, who had only played in United's Open Cup games previously.
In their first-ever trip to the Queen City, United were lively from the start, with Leonardo Jara going close from range in the fifth minute. Rooney then tested keeper Spencer Richey from distance with a free kick in the 17th minute, which forced an awkward save from the keeper after the ball bounced in front of goal.
Frederic Brillant made a timely block in the box of Rashawn Dally in the 24th minute, but United were let off the hook from the resulting corner. Kendall Waston worked himself free kin the box but smashed his header off the crossbar.
Arriola then forced a good save out of Richey in the 29th minute from a cross from Joseph Mora. Mora's pinpoint delivery allowed Arriola to guide a header on target, but Richey was equal to the effort, diving to his right to push the shot away.
Rodriguez then opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, when Cincinnati defended the box poorly. Rooney received a throw-in from Mora in the box, and then quickly fed Rodriguez, who had no defenders around him. That allowed the Argentine time to curl a shot past Richey for his third tally of the season.
D.C. were quite aggravated in the second half when referee Baldomero Toledo awarded the hosts a penalty kick for a handball against Arriola. From a free-kick just outside the box, Arriola jumped and turned, and while the ball struck his arm, the winger was holding it close to his body.
There was no video review though, and Ledesma stuttered in his runup to send Seitz the wrong way, coolly slotting home the equalizer.
Instead of crumbling though, United responded in emphatic fashion, scoring three goals in 14 minutes to earn the win. The first came in the 59th minute when Rodriguez collected a pass from Arriola and took aim with a speculative shot from outside the box. A fortunate deflection off of Waston took the ball past Richey for the 2-1 lead, on Rodriguez's fourth goal of the year.
Rooney got his goal in the 64th minute when a pass with eyes from Jara was launched up the field. The ball bounced away from Waston, allowing Rooney to collect in the box, and cut back towards the middle. Rooney then sent the ball back across Richey, scoring his 11th goal of the 2019 campaign.
To round out the scoring. Rodriguez turned provider for Arriola in the 73rd minute. The Argentine played the ball into space for Arriola in Cincinnati's half, without much challenge. Though Waston was close to Arriola, the defender never closed down the space, allowing the winger to get into the box and smash a left-footed shot past Richey for the unassailable 4-1 lead.
There wasn't much of a challenge from the hosts late on, allowing United to move within a point of the Philadelphia Union at the top of the Eastern Conference. United could take that top spot on Sunday when they travel to Georgia to take on Atlanta United.