Birnbaum’s late header salvages United effort in 1-1 draw in Colorado

Commerce City, Colorado, September 12, 2015 – D.C. United scored in the 87th minute to salvage a poor performance and capture a valuable point in their 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids last night at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

Steve Birnbaum’s towering header over the Rapids defense from a Fabian Espindola cross saved yet another unimaginative performance from United and helped to prevent a four-game losing streak. The point for United pushed them back into a tie with New York Red Bulls (45 point apiece – however United are behind via head-to-head and also have played three more games then Red Bull) and just ahead of the Columbus Crew SC 44 points).

With 12 days off between tonight’s match and the ugly 3-0 loss at Red Bull, it was expected that United would come out with a decidedly different attitude and tactical approach but it was more of the same that we have seen during United’s recent stretch of poor play. Putting numbers behind the ball, poor transition from defense to offense, senseless giveaways of the ball all over the field and no ability of the forwards to hold the ball to bring the midfield into play.

So it wasn’t exactly shocking when the Rapids took the lead in the 28th minute on a goal that has typified United’s recent frustrations. Colorado had a free kick sent into the penalty area that initially popped straight up into the air at the top of the box with no one on either team really tracking the ball. It eventually found the left foot of Bobby Burling who simply put a hopeful left-footed swing on the ball and it managed to find it’s way through a thicket of players and in off the far post for the 1-o lead.

Both teams were struggling to put any offense together as both teams spent the majority of the game taking turns turning the ball over to one another. However the home side had the lead and it was up to United to change the tone of the match.

With their backs against the wall and staring straight into a four-game losing streak United finally started to put together some cohesive play to at least threaten the Rapids. United’s best chance prior to the goal was when Chris Rolfe fed a pass to Espindola in the area that was a touch too heavy as Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin just beat Fabi to the ball.

United did finally get the point they were looking for thanks to the superior athletic ability of Birnbaum. Taylor Kemp slipped his free kick down the left flank to Espindola who then whipped in a left-footed cross to the far post where Birnbaum rose at least a foot above a Rapids defender to power his header past Irwin who did manage to get a hand to the shot before it found it’s way into the goal.

With a sense of relief of scoring such an important goal despite another awful performance flowing through the team, United were almost burned for relaxing when the Rapids should have nabbed the game-winner in stoppage time. United once again were second-best to a loose ball in the penalty area when Burling found Lucas Pittanari wide-open at the penalty spot.

With no one but Hamid in his way, the Argentine midfielder managed to whiff completely on the ball. The Rapids stayed with the play and still managed a shot towards goal but Hamid was there to make the game-saving play and keep the draw intact..

Up next for United in MLS is a home game against the surging Crew at RFK Stadium next Saturday night. Columbus trails United by just one point in the standings with Columbus with a game in hand.

Before that however United will host Arabe Unido on Tuesday night in CONCACAF Champions League play. A win will see United advance to the knockout stages next February. No doubt Olsen will continue to put out a reserve side for the match as the reserves have taken both of their prior matches in Group H play. United defeated Arabe Unido 1-0 in Panama City last month on an 85th minute goal by rookie Miguel Aguilar who leads the team in scoring in the competition with two goals.

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