Josh Williams (3) towers over United’s Defense to give the Columbus Crew the lead. Josh Williams and Ben Speas scored on either side of halftime to lead the visiting Columbus Crew (2-1-1 7 points) to a 2-1 win over D.C. United (1-2-1 4 points). The loss for United was the first in 20 home matches dating back to the season opening loss to Sporting Kansas City a year ago in March. Photo: Martin Fernandez.
Head coach Ben Olsen knew that allowing the visiting Crew any chances on set pieces would be dangerous and Columbus made United pay for their mistakes. Williams was unmarked and easily beat Bill Hamid to the ball to give Columbus a 1-0 lead in just the 15th minute. The free kick that set up the goal was given when United defender Chris Korb misplayed a routine defensive clearance and handled the ball along the right sideline. Tyson Wahl’s left-footed curler found Williams all alone just eight yards from goal and beat Hamid who was premature in coming out.
Hamid was the story of the match for United as he pulled off a pair of stunning saves to keep the score at 1-0 just a few minutes after Columbus had taken the lead. United, looking ragged and sloppy through the first 20 minutes of the match, managed to equalize the match in stunning fashion in the 22nd minute. Brazilian forward Rafael, gaining his first start and minutes of the season, out muscled fellow countryman and Crew defender Glauber just inside United’s half of the field and pounced on the loose ball and took off towards goal. The crafty forward noticed Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum off his line and stung a 35-yard volley that found it’s way into the goal and leveled the match at 1-1.
United thought they had taken the lead late in the half on a bizarre play that referee Allen Chapman originally ruled as a “play on”. United substitute midfielder Kyle Porter took advantage of the passive offside rule and ghosted in all alone and easily beat Gruenebaum for what many thought was the go-ahead goal for United. However, after consulting with the assistant referee on the far sideline, the goal was called back much to the dismay of the 11,034 fans at RFK. The call is it turned out was the correct call as Lionard Pajoy was in an offside position when Dwayne De Rosario’s pass split the Crew defense and Pajoy moved towards the ball. The linesman in real time did throw up his flag but Chapman ruled a “play on” as he saw Porter coming to the ball from an onside position. The fact that Pajoy engaged himself towards the ball was the right call and United had to settle for a 1-1 tie heading into the locker room.
After the break things did not improve for the Black-and-Red. Playing without defender Dejan Jakovic who is on International duty with Canada, United clearly missed their most influential defender all game long as a series of free kicks for the Crew were becoming more and more dangerous. Bill Hamid pulled of a stunning double-save in 54th minute with saves back-t0-back on Williams and Wahl, the second of which was at point blank range.
However the seemingly unending series of bad giveaways from the defense and midfield allowed the Crew to apply the dagger blow in the 58th minute. Kyle Porter’s foul on Ben Speas along the left sideline set up a free kick opportunity for the Crew. Playmaker Federico Higuain whipped in a ball that was weakly cleared by United’s defense and the ball rolled out to Speas who’s 18-yard blast easily beat Hamid for the game-winning goal.
United almost equalized in the 72nd minute when Gruenebaum pulled of his own double-save miracle. Lionard Pajoy’s header off of a corner kick went wide of goal as United kept the play alive and the ball ended up at the top of the penalty area where defender Brandon McDonald’s drive was parried by Gruenebaum to his right. The ball however was right in the path of De Rosario and his sharp angled bid (left, photo: Martin Fernandez) was blocked by the sprawling Crew keeper to help preserve the win.
United will now have the next weekend off of league play and will face another stern road test as they travel to face Sporting Kansas City on April 2nd.
- Marcelo Saragosa was not in the 18-man squad due to a minor injury suffered during training this week
- Nick DeLeon was subbed out of the match in the 30th minute with an undisclosed injury. Olsen commented after the match that it might not be good news and did not elaborate on his status for upcoming matches