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A week shaken by the abrupt firing of D.C. United’s coach and questions about the direction of the MLS organization took a hopeful and arresting turn Saturday at Audi Field.

Chad Ashton, a second-time interim boss, rallied his teetering squad, and Greek attacker Taxi Fountas, a first-time starter, made a spectacular impression as United came back for a 3-2 victory over the New England Revolution.

Three days after Hernán Losada was ousted — amid a four-game losing streak and growing friction with players and staff — United (3-4-0) rebounded from an early deficit to revive its outlook and end a six-game skid against Bruce Arena’s team.

Fountas, a designated player who sits atop the team payroll, made his MLS debut last week as a sub. In the lineup Saturday, he scored twice and assisted on another goal in a 17-minute stretch of the first half.

“I was worried when we conceded the early goal because I thought we looked a little shellshocked,” said Ashton, a member of the coaching staff since 2007 and the interim leader in late 2020 before Losada was hired. “I was worried right then, what that emotion and what that week took out of us. The response by the guys — unbelievable. It boosts our confidence. It gives us one to start moving in the right direction.”

After Brandon Bye scored for New England (2-5-1) in the sixth minute, Fountas’s goals came in the 26th and 43rd, and Michael Estrada finished Fountas’s cross in the 39th. The Revolution scored in the 86th before United sweated out eight minutes of stoppage time in front of an announced 17,131.

When it ended, defender Donovan Pines gave goalkeeper Jon Kempin, a late-save hero, a giant hug.

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“It was a hectic week,” said Kempin, who started for the first time this season with Bill Hamid out with an injury. “The way we can express ourselves is through soccer, through the game. What you saw tonight was a group of guys who gave everything.”

At the start, it wasn’t the usual jovial scene at the stadium. Unhappy with the decision to fire Losada after just 15 months, many members of the supporters’ groups either did not attend or watched in silence. The singing and drumming, soundtracks to United matches since the 1996 inaugural season, were largely withheld.

In the early going, the loudest noises came from visiting supporters after Bye’s goal and from fans chanting to save a little bird that declined to leave the field.

“I know it was a bit different from the fans’ side,” wing back Julian Gressel said. “Thankful for the ones that came and supported us still through this. I think they saw we want to win at all costs and we wanted this today, especially.”

It took time for Fountas and Co. to find a rhythm. Edison Flores’s wayward pass elicited boos, while Fountas struggled to find the game, and Estrada received scant service.

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Soon, though, Fountas delivered.

It began with Flores supplying him for a dangerous cross that went untouched. Gressel tracked it down at the far sideline and crossed into the box. A New England header fell to Fountas for a 16-yard volley that skipped into the far corner.

In the 39th minute, Fountas and Gressel combined on the right side. Fountas then chipped a cross into the six-yard box to the unmarked Estrada for an easy header and his first goal since he struck twice in the Feb. 26 opener.

Four minutes later, Fountas brought down a deflected ball, shifted across the top of the box and ripped a 12-yard shot that handcuffed Brad Knighton.

Still building up his fitness after playing just once for Rapid Vienna in 2022, Fountas exited in the 60th minute to a standing ovation.

“He just understands the game very well,” Ashton said. “He’s a difference-maker, obviously. He hasn’t played in a while, so to see him be that sharp and be emotionally bought in to the group that much is really exciting.”

With a 3-1 lead, United emphasized shape and discipline, yielding possession but not serious threats for a long stretch. New England’s pressure paid off in the 86th minute. After Kempin made a spectacular save, Adam Buksa headed in a free kick from close range.

The goal rekindled dark memories of last week’s collapse against Austin: A 2-0 lead with about 10 minutes left turned into a 3-2 defeat, all but sealing Losada’s fate.

“I said at the 80th-minute mark, ‘We’ve been here before, guys,’ ” Gressel said. “This week, we only conceded one, thankfully.”

Kempin made another breathtaking save as 90 minutes passed, but United needed to withstand repeated threats during stoppage time.

Here’s what else to know from United’s victory:

Hamid is expected to miss about a month, elevating Kempin into the lineup for his first work of the season. United acquired a third goalkeeper, Venezuela’s Rafael Romo, but he is awaiting a work visa, a process that will take another few weeks.

Until Romo is cleared or Hamid returns, Loudoun United’s Luis Zamudio will serve as the backup.

United will visit the Columbus Crew next Saturday, its first regular season away match since March 19 in Toronto. Five of the subsequent six games, though, will take place at Audi Field. That span includes a U.S. Open Cup date with the New York Red Bulls.



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