April 19, 2021

D.C. United GAME 4 RECAP: Crew halt United’s home unbeaten streak at 19

D.C. United’s 19-match home unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) play came to an end Saturday afternoon as the Columbus Crew won, 2-1, in an entertaining affair that saw a little bit of everything. Great goals, fantastic saves, curious officiating, this one had it all. But in the end, the majority of it didn’t go United’s way.

United slipped to 1-2-1 on the season (4 points), while the Crew improved to 2-1-1 (7 points). United hadn’t lost a league match at home since the 2012 season opener, when Sporting Kansas City scored a goal in second-half stoppage time to gain a 1-0 victory.

It was Ben Speas’ strike in the 58th minute that proved to be the game-winner. On a Columbus corner, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid knocked away the kick, taken by Crew forward Federico Higuain. The rebound was met by Speas right at the 18, and his low shot eluded Hamid to the goalkeeper’s left, making it 2-1.

United came within inches of drawing level on multiple occasions. First, Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum dove left to get a hand on a Dwayne De Rosario header and keep it out. Minutes later, United forward Lionard Pajoy hit the post to Gruenebaum’s right. Pajoy then worked hard to win the ball back off the rebound and United threatened again. Brandon McDonald fired from distance and Gruenebaum moved right to get that, then while still down, saved from De Rosario from point-blank range.

United tried to turn up the pressure in the final 10 minutes, as veteran forward Carlos Ruiz entered the game and instead of replacing Pajoy, came on to play with him (defender James Riley was removed). But D.C. created little from that point on and never seriously threatened to get the goal that would have extended the home unbeaten streak to an even 20 matches.

The Crew took the lead in the 15th minute thanks to Josh Williams. Tyson Wahl delivered a nice free kick from a spot to Hamid’s left, and Williams headed the ball past Hamid, who had come off his line, to open the scoring.

United tied the match in spectacular fashion seven minutes later when debutant Rafael beat Gruenebaum from more than 35 yards for a memorable first MLS goal. Off a turnover at midfield, Chris Pontius played the ball forward for Rafael in the Crew’s half. Marked by Glauber, it didn’t appear that Rafael was going to be able to do much with it, but he turned around Glauber as the ball went by and was free. Glauber, and a couple other of his Columbus teammates, stopped, maybe expecting a foul on Rafael. No whistle was blown, however, and Rafael was free to launch a rocket that beat Gruenebaum to his left.

United were denied the go-ahead goal late in the first half. On a long lead ball for Pajoy, the assistant referee flagged Pajoy for offside as the forward turned to chase after the ball. All the Crew players stopped, but United’s Kyle Porter (an early substitute for injured midfielder Nick DeLeon) kept playing, found himself one-on-one with Gruenebaum, and beat him to make it 2-1.

However, after a consultation between head referee Allen Chapman and his assistant, the goal was disallowed, presumably for the offside on Pajoy. It wasn’t clear why Chapman didn’t blow the play dead when the flag first came up. If he had, in his mind, overruled the flag to let the play continue, he would have had to reverse himself to then disallow the goal.

But with multiple close shots in the second half, United weren’t completely lack for opportunities and there’s more to blame the loss on than the one officiating decision. Gruenebaum was a star in the second half, and the Crew’s offense had a field day at times working against United’s defense – which was missing Dejan Jakovic and midfielder Marcos Sanchez due to international duty for Canada and Panama, respectively.

United survived that, giving up just the one goal despite persistent danger from Columbus restarts, and D.C. got the equalizing goal on a great strike by Rafael. But Speas’ goal late put the Crew ahead, and Gruenebaum saved the three points wildly on multiple occasions.

United are in action next on Friday, April 5, at Sporting Kansas City. The next home match is at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, against the New York Red Bulls.

NOTES: DeLeon left in the first half after going down with what appeared to be a right hamstring injury. … Attendance was officially announced as 11,034. … Williams’ goal was his second of the season, while Speas’ winning strike was his first of 2013. … Eddie Gaven of Columbus and United midfielder Perry Kitchen earned the only yellow cards of the match. … United had nearly 59 percent of the ball, according to MLS stats, but were outshot, 17-9, and 9-5 on shots on goal. … United have scored only two goals now in four games, having conceded four.

ELSEWHERE: The only good news for United fans was that rival New York didn’t win either. The Red Bulls were beaten, 1-0, in Montreal by the Impact in another of the three afternoon games Saturday. In the third game, Sporting Kansas City and New England played to a scoreless draw.

Ed Morgans is a Contributor to District Sports Page, covering D.C. United. You can follow him on Twitter @edmorgans.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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