Rome wasn’t built in a day. Of course, if you’re building a city, you might want to at least align some bricks or something on the first day. Such limited progress wasn’t really seen Saturday night at RFK Stadium, as D.C. United were steamrolled at home, 3-0, by the Columbus Crew before 13,540. Federico Higuain scored twice and Jairo Arrieta added the other, as United is now winless in its last 13 Major League Soccer matches going back to last season.
While the talking point for many will be the penalty awarded by replacement referee Andres Pfefferkorn that led to the Crew’s second goal, there is very little reason to think that had the call not been given and the match stayed at 1-0 to Columbus, that United wouldn’t have lost anyway. Much like last year, United were anemic offensively, taking just one shot on goal (from 11 attempts). And that shot was from defender Christian Fernandez.
United started what appeared to be a decent lineup, one that featured seven players acquired in the offseason, including Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola to lead the attack, with Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Fernandez, and Sean Franklin making up a completely new United defense. Early, there were signs of life, as United worked in the Columbus half and Johnson was an available target to whom United could play forward, something that lacked last year with Lionard Pajoy up front.
But too often, United’s attack bogged down in the final third, and United were often caught with players on the ball 25-30 yards out and with their backs to goal. This only left passes available to defenders, and stymied the creative flow. This damage doubled when United turned the ball over, as Columbus was far quicker in the midfield and at forward than United’s defense. Columbus took control of the match in the 18th minute when Arrieta scored off assists by Josh Williams and Hector Jimenez.
Before United could really mount any kind of threat to draw level, Pfefferkorn, working the game in place of the scheduled referee due to a labor dispute, called Perry Kitcen for a foul in the United penalty area after Columbus’ Michael Parkhurst fell over. As the two ran alongside each other on a corner kick, Parkhurst fell to his left, which had be been grabbed by Kitchen as was whistled, would have made for an interesting trajectory.
United’s protests were of no matter, however, and Higuain buried the penalty kick. The rest of the half was Pfefferkorn’s folly, as he lost control of matters, leading to a 20-man summit of fury at the end of the first half with players from both teams down on the field after possible fouls. Pfefferkorn showed no cards, instead blowing his whistle to end the half. For he game, Pfefferkorn called the penalty and handed out five yellows – four to the Crew.
Even if you watched the second half while stuck in line at the Pupusa stand, you didn’t miss much. United failed to menace and the Crew could have named their victory margin. The Crew settled for 3-0 when Higuain added his second goal of the match in the 90th minute.
United has two weeks to try and construct a more competitive team before a trip to Toronto FC on March 22. United returns home at 4 p.m. March 29 against the Chicago Fire.
UNITED 0-3 COLUMBUS
CLB – Arrieta 1 (Williams 1, Jimenez 1), 18th minute.
CLB – Higuain 1, PK, 27th.
CLB – Higuain 2 (Meram 1), 90th.
CLB – Tchani, yellow, 39th.
CLB – Trapp, yellow, 43rd.
CLB – Higuain, yellow, 63rd.
DC – Neal, yellow, 67th.
CLB – Francis, yellow, 76th.
Shots: DC 11, CLB 9.
Shots on Goal: DC 1, CLB 5.
Corners: DC 5, CLB 3.
Offside: DC 2, CLB 2.
Fouls: DC 13, CLB 14.
Possession: DC 42.8%, CLB 57.2%
UNITED (0-1-0, 0 points): Hamid; Boswell, Fernandez, Parke (Porter 83′), Franklin; Kitchen, Silva, Arnaud (Doyle 74′), DeLeon (Neal 64′); Espindola, Johnson.
CREW (1-0-0, 3 points): Clark; Parkhurst, Williams, Gonzalez, Francis (Wahl 90′); Trapp, Anor (Meram 74′), Tchani, Jimenez; Higuain, Arrieta (Bedell 88′).
Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter @writered21.