Kei Kamara and the Columbus Crew came to D.C. and accomplished their goal, they left with a 2-1 victory to pick up three important points by earning the result. It was a hard earned victory, but also a game that could have easily went the other way. While the Crew won, the home team played one of it’s best games of the season from start to finish. The win moved the Crew up to second place, while the Black-and-Red fall to fourth. It was a tough loss to swallow as the home side had not one, but two goals taken away by the official in the second half.
The Crew got their first goal from a giveaway, defender Tyson Wahl got the ball on the left flank and dribbled towards the goal. He was able to shield off United’s Sean Franklin and played the ball on frame. It was a low cross that was put in a very dangerous position, in front of the goal. Ethan Findlay managed to fight off a defender and push the ball past Bill Hamid before he could react to it.
Even though Columbus scored first, the first half was mostly the home team’s. United did a good job sustaining possession and using partnerships on each level to build quality attacks, they just couldn’t finish.
The second half started much like the first half ended, with the home team applying pressure in the attacking third. The Crew were able to clear the ball and in one swift pass trigger a beautiful counter attack. Kamara got the ball on the wing an deftly beat Steven Birnbaum, within a couple of strides he was up on Hamid. The league’s scoring leader tallied his 21st goal of the season by sliding the ball into the near post, it was a text book finish in that situation.
As always the Black-and-Red would respond, their constant pressure and solid attacks resulted in a prime opportunity later in the half. Franklin got the ball on the right wing and played a ball into the box, a Columbus defender got a hand on it and unlike earlier in the game, a call was made. Chris Rolfe stepped up to take the penalty kick, the savvy vet beat Steve Clark to put United on the board.
United would create several more chances, but all of which fell short. It was a great win for the Crew and a bittersweet result for the home side. Of all the chances they got on the night, several were shots that would have went in on any other night. The good news is that there is still time to clinch a playoff berth, the performance was also something the team can build off.
Bill Hamid is special. I feel like I share this sentiment every week, but yet again, the keeper made his presence known. Just as United could have scored several goals in this game, the Crew certainly could have had four or five in the back of the net if not for Hamid. He won in every 1v1 situation with opposing players but one, Kamara’s goal. The most impressive being when he made a tackle on a player outside of the box, displaying very good feet in staying with the player, cutting them off and dispossessing them.
Touch a bit off. Alvaro Saborio had a rough evening, he could have had three goals against the Crew. The big forward usually has great touch in the attacking third, he’s a very good finisher. He had two 1v1 situations with Clark and was stoned on both, in those situations it felt as if he didn’t quite strike the ball the way he wanted. He also missed on two headers, one of which had tremendous pace and was struck extremely well. It was just a bit wide of the frame, but he caused trouble in the opposing team’s box and can’t get down on himself. Those were all very makeable shots for a player with his talent and experience.
Aggressor. I was impressed by United taking the fight to the opponent versus sitting back and absorbing pressure. They forced several sloppy passes, resulting in giveaways and other miscues. It seemed that pressing gave life to Sabo and Fabi up front, especially Espindola. He was dropping back on defense and applying pressure, he and Sabo seemed much more active up front.
Rhythm. For the first time this season, there’s been a consistent 11 starting the game. The rewards were evident at times in this match, players were reading eachother well and seemed to know what the other was seeing at times depending on the partnership. Still, there were moments in which a pass was put to the inside rather than the outside and the receiver was looking for the opposite. That comes with time, it even improved in the game. Several of those quality chances came from good buildups with a ton of passing between the three levels.
Halsti. It was the second game in a row where Markus Halsti started in centre midfield with Perry Kitchen due to Davy Arnaud’s injury. I’m a fan of the pairing because the complement each other very well. The Kitchen-Arnaud pairing is better from a defensive standpoint, but they are very similar. Halsti’s vision is what separates the different pairings, he’s able to jumpstart the attack in one pass rather than two or three. The veteran is clever on the ball and routinely plays the ball into space, which fuels the D.C. attack. Again, this isn’t a knock on the Kitchen-Arnaud pairing, simply stating the difference in the two pairings. It’s a good problem to have for the Black-and-Red.