An early goal gave Orlando City (2-5-3, 9 points) hope on the road, but an off night from Kaká and an injury to Aurelien Collin proved too much for the Lions to overcome. D.C. United (6-1-3, 21 points) dominated the second half, and goals from Kofi Opare and Chris Rolfe were enough to give the home side the comeback victory.
D.C. came out looking predictably strong for the first 10 minutes, but they weren't able to capitalize on the possession. Luis Silva fired a shot just wide at 4', and Nick DeLeon's rocket cross in the sixth minute was collected by Donovan Ricketts.
Things turned around completely at the 10-minute mark, when the Lions started to control the match. Fullback Luke Boden earned a corner for Orlando in the 11th, which was sent in and cleared to the feet of young Harrison Heath outside the box. Heath passed the ball back into the box, and after a few wild bounces and a blocked volley from Darin Ceren, Collin backheeled the ball to the feet of Cyle Larin in traffic at the top of the box.
The Canadian rookie whipped his leg at the ball, and his shot was right into the top left corner, well out of the reach of Bill Hamid.
From there, the first half was a largely tepid affair. Youngster Rafael Ramos was a force going forward for Orlando from his fullback spot, and Aurelien Collin did very well to disrupt a D.C. United counter in the 24th minute. Perhaps the most excitement came in the form of 19-year-old Harrison Heath going forehead-to-forehead with 34-year-old Davy Arnaud.
The Lions came out strong again to start the second, and continued to frustrate United at RFK. Heath earned a free kick just outside the D.C. area in the 54th, which Shea slammed into the United wall.
Entering the final 30 minutes, the momentum was just starting to shift toward the home team, when the unthinkable happened for Orlando City: Center back Collin went down holding his hamstring. With Seb Hines not at full fitness, Head Coach Adrian Heath chose to insert 19-year-old fullback Tyler Turner at center back.
The result was predictably bad, as United started to dominate and quickly evened the score just minutes later. Taylor Kemp's free kick from the right side found center back Opare at the far post, who eluded Ramos and Avila to head past Ricketts for the equalizer.
United remained in complete control, and took the lead in the match nine minutes later on a wonderful finish by substitute Rolfe. The veteran slipped off the back shoulder of Turner, and Jairo Arrieta found his outstretched foot at the top of the six with an inch-perfect cross.
Orlando made a few meek efforts to climb back in the match, but they never seriously threatened D.C. Kaká was a total non-factor in the match, and the Lions' lack of back line depth seemed to seal their fate. It's worth noting, not one goal or assist for United was earned by a regular starter (Opare, Rolfe, Kemp, Arrieta).
"I don't think that we deserved not to take anything from the game. But, we can't keep killing ourselves," said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the match. "We shoot ourselves in the foot every week. If I'm being realistic, I thought we were the better team tonight. But, hey, it takes experience at times, and tonight we let ourselves down again with people not doing their job."
Orlando City will tumble further down the MLS standings, but will have very little respite upon returning to Orlando. The Lions next face the LA Galaxy on Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Citrus Bowl.