Fabian Espindola inspired DC United to what turned out to be a routine win at home to the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday evening.
The 29-year-old assisted Chris Rolfe for a 28th-minute opener, before his strike partner returned the favour in the second half.
Brian Ownby saw red for the Dynamo, who never looked like conjuring up a goal in a relatively dull affair.
A serious-looking early injury for Mark Sherrod further added to Houston’s woe.
The rookie had been in impressive form, with two goals and one assist in his last two games, but may now be facing an extended spell on the sidelines.
His Dynamo side had seen their season transformed by a run of one defeat in five, sitting third in the Eastern Conference prior to kick-off.
The hosts have been in even better shape of late, now only losing one of their last nine. They were without forward Eddie Johnson for this clash though, as he served a one-game suspension following an incident in last week’s match against the Montreal Impact.
The game was still waiting for its first chance when, in the tenth minute, Sherrod went down clutching his left leg. He appeared to jar his knee while tussling for the ball with Bobby Boswell, and it quickly became clear that he was in no fit state to continue.
A slow first half was then sparked into life by Rolfe’s strike.
Espindola shrugged off Jermaine Taylor and ran at the heart of the visitors’ defence. He slipped in the 31-year-old, who tied David Horst in knots with his tight control, before firing across Tally Hall into the corner.
The Argentine Espindola was a constant menace, but it was from Davy Arnaud’s cross that Nick DeLeon should have done better with his wayward header.
Houston’s first attempt of the game came through former Derby County midfielder Giles Barnes, who forced Bill Hamid into a strong save from range.
The first opportunity of the second half didn’t come until the 60th minute, as Rolfe almost scored a glorious second.
A United corner was only half cleared and fell to the former United States international. He brought it down on his chest before thundering a blinding effort that crashed against the crossbar.
This initiated a spell of genuinely entertaining football, with Will Bruin rounding Hamid but failing to get a shot away.
The Black-and-Red immediately went up the other end and made it two. More lovely skill from Espindola bamboozled the Dynamo defence, and he powered his shot past Hall’s left arm.
Servando Carrasco went close from range, but as the game ticked towards the last ten minutes, only United looked like scoring a third.
DeLeon looked determined to get himself a goal, and nearly did as he burst beyond the Houston backline and struck an effort inches wide of the far post. He then followed this up with an off-balance volley into the side-netting from a dangerous Christian cross.
The visitors’ disappointing evening reached a fitting conclusion as Ownby was dismissed for a petulant stoppage-time shove before the whistle went on United's 2-0 victory.
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