D.C. United took an early lead in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final against the Houston Dynamo, but injuries took their toll and the hosts scored three second-half goals to give the Dynamo a 3-1 advantage entering next Sunday's second leg at RFK Stadium.
United took the lead in the 27th minute as Lionard Pajoy ran clear of Houston's offside trap and curled a shot off Tally Hall's left post. However, rookie Nick DeLeon was first to the rebound and stroked it into the net.
Prior to the goal, injury had forced United to use one of their three substitutions, as Chris Pontius (groin) was forced off in the 12th minute for Lewis Neal.
Houston leveled in the 51st minute after catching D.C. United napping on a quick restart and Andre Hainault fired a close-range shot into the roof of the net.
Hainault could have easily been sent off for a first-half challenge on Raphael Agusto, who had come on earlier in the first half in place of the injured Marcelo Saragosa (hamstring). Instead, referee Ricardo Salazar waved play on.
Moments after Bobby Boswell cleared a Pajoy shot off the line, Will Bruin put Houston ahead in the 68th minute as Wilis deflected a Giles Barnes cross into Bruin's path. The shot glanced off the post and rolled into the net.
Houston added their third goal in the 81st minute, as Augusto failed to clear a corner, the ball fell to Kofi Sarkodie, and he rifled a shot home.
The second leg kicks off Sunday at 4:00 p.m. and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.