PORTLAND — A second straight road win got D.C. United a step closer to securing a playoff spot.
An own goal put United up in the 25th minute and the team held on for a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Sunday. It was United’s second straight win after a three-game losing streak.
United (12-10-9) was denied another goal before halftime. Television replays appeared to show the ball cross the goal line before Timbers midfielder Eryk Williamson cleared it out.
“We got the goal in the first half and the second half we dug in to keep the clean sheet and get the three points,” United striker Wayne Rooney said. “I think it was a tough game but the important thing is the three points.”
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Timbers (13-12-4). It was the Portland’s fourth loss at home, most since the 2012 season.
Rooney returned to United’s starting lineup after a two-game suspension for violent conduct in the 21st minute of a match against the Red Bulls on Aug. 21. Rooney leads the team with 11 goals and seven assists in 26 league appearances this season. The striker will leave United at the end of the season to become a player-coach for Derby County in England.
Both teams were fighting for playoff position. United was coming off a 3-0 road victory over the Montreal Impact, while Portland’s last result was a 2-1 win at home over Sporting Kansas City.
With the win, United moved up to fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Timbers were sixth in the West before the results of Sunday’s late games.
“I know mathematically it doesn’t put us in a playoff spot just yet, but I think we’d have to lose every game and the teams outside the playoff spot would have to win every game, which, if that happens, we don’t deserve to be in it,” Rooney said.
Timbers captain Diego Valeri was disappointed Portland couldn’t gain ground.
“We needed the three points to get up on the table,” he said. “But I think we played a good game overall, dominated. We missed all our chances and they got a lot of luck in the goal. And they just defended so deep, we had our chances and we couldn’t score.”
The Timbers played a depleted squad against United with only 16 players available. Sebastian Blanco was nursing a lower leg injury while top scorer Brian Fernandez was out because of an illness. Defender Zarek Valentin was absent because of the birth of his child.
United went ahead on the own goal when Portland defender Bill Tuiloma tried unsuccessfully to clear a cross from Ulises Segura. A second goal was denied in the 38th minute when Rooney’s corner into the box bounced off Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark but was booted out of the goal by Williamson. United players pleaded that the ball crossed the goal line but the referee allowed play to continue.
Following the match the pool reporter asked referee Drew Fischer about the call and use of video review.
“The decision on the field was that the ball had not fully crossed the line. The VAR checked the play and determined that the available angles did not show a clean error,” Fischer said in his written response. “Therefore the VAR indicated ‘check complete.'”
Portland had a number of chances. Valeri’s header in the 16th minute for the Timbers hit the post then skidded across the front of the goal. Jorge Moreira lofted a shot from distance in the 51st minute but United goalkeeper Bill Hamid pushed it just above the crossbar.
“It’s a difficult one just because I thought the guys played very, very well against a good team, and we also had players that are missing,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Again, very proud of the guys and the effort that they put in, and as I said we played a very good team and we outplayed them, but the game is about goals, not how many crosses, how many possessions, not how many good things you do.”