Charlie Davies' 25th birthday Saturday ended up being bittersweet.
It didn't start off well, as the league Friday fined the D.C. United forward $1,000 for taking a dive to win a penalty kick in a tie at Real Salt Lake last week.
But Davies put that behind him as he scored what he thought would be the game-winning goal in the 73rd minute against the Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium. With United leading 2-1, Davies was substituted in the 85th minute and left to applause from the crowd of 15,734.
It seemed everything was going to plan: Davies had his birthday goal. It marked his eighth strike of the 2011 campaign and moved him into a first-place tie with Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry in the race for the MLS Golden Boot Award. And United looked to be about to earn three points at home.
As Davies sat on the bench watching the dying minutes of the match, United's young defense allowed Houston to notch a goal from Brian Ching and leave the home team with a disappointing 2-2 tie.
"Obviously, it's not a good feeling," Davies said. "We came in today with the intention of getting three points at home. That's something we really need to focus on and make RFK a place where teams can't come in here and get results."
United (4-5-6) has earned just 10 points at home from a possible 24. In its past four games at RFK, the club has lost one game and tied three. The team blew another ideal opportunity to win points and move up the standings.
"Too many of our guys didn't get what the game needed at certain times," said United coach Ben Olsen.
It looked promising in the 31st minute when the hard-working Chris Pontius scored a stunning goal with a blast from 25 yards out to give United the lead. But just before the break, Houston was awarded a penalty kick after United goalie Bill Hamid appeared to pull down Ching on the 6-yard line. Brad Davis converted the kick to tie the game.
"The little things, the gamesmanship when we are up in games, has a long way to go, and it's something we've got to work on," Olsen said.
Davies, who was making his first start in four games, put United in the lead in the 73rd minute with an easy goal as he kicked in a rebound from 5 yards out after Andy Najar had worked hard to set up the play.
"Not too many people are going to miss that chance, so I made sure I buried it," Davies said.
But United couldn't hang on. In the 89th minute, a cross from Colin Clark deflected off United defender Perry Kitchen into the path of Ching, who headed the ball from 12 yards out past Hamid.
"That goal is going to haunt me more than anybody," said Kitchen. "We worked so hard to get three points at home and for them to score in the last five minutes or so - it's a terrible feeling."
While another tie at home is hard to digest for the club, on the individual level, Davies' strike rate is impressive.
Earning eight goals in 13 games is good news for any forward and especially for Davies, who was out of action for more than 15 months recovering from life-threatening injuries suffered in a car crash in 2009.
"That's just a bonus," Davies said. "For me, it's just about doing all the little things I did so well, and once I do that I'll be flying, and people won't be thinking about the accident any more. It will be like: 'This kid's back, and he's ready to go.' "
United have scored 21 goals, equaling the club's total for all of last season. Up next is a home match Saturday against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union.
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