The Columbus Crew came into last night’s matchup with D.C. United with the same 0-1-1 record, they would leave victorious for their first win of the season, 2-0. The home side had a few chances, won the possession battle, but didn’t turn in a good performance as a team. There were a few that played well, collectively it may have been a step in the right direction. As Taylor Kemp said after the game, “There’s still a lot that we need to improve on.” The Crew scored both of their goals via penalty kicks, both of the fouls involved D.C. United captain Steven Birnbaum.
“I thought I got a touch on the first one, but I came across and then definitely touched him. The second one, I thought it was pretty good defense…Obviously, that cost us the game, both of them. It’s tough. – Steven Birnbaum, D.C. United
The Black-and-Red played much like they did in the past two games, one of Coach Olsen’s points this week was improving upon those bad decisions. The first half against the Columbus Crew was filled with those, the bad decisions that is.
The backline started off solid, but had some nervous sequences about 20 minutes into the half. Bill Hamid had to come off his line and make a point blank save on two occasions. That’s wasn’t the biggest issue from the back in the half, several times the team got caught in transition, on Columbus counter attacks and that’s an area that Olsen brought up earlier this week. The team as a whole, outside of Luciano Acosta and Ian Harkes, did a poor job of retaining possession regardless of their place on the field. There were a couple of times when the defense would dispossess a Crew attacker, only to give the ball back with either a poor clearance or poor pass. The little things, that’s what was the issue with D.C. United failing to score in their three to four chances in the half. Sometimes it was a player taking an extra touch versus moving the ball or taking a shot, others it was just being a tick too slow in recognizing open options that were available.
Halftime at RFK. #DCU 0-1 Crew. United now scoreless for first 225 minutes of the season.
— Steven Streff (@streffsoccer) March 18, 2017
The Crew scored in the 38th minute when Steven Birnbaum was called for a foul in the box, he was attempting to take down an attacker in the box. Hamid guessed the right corner that the shot was being fired into, but the ball had a bit too much pace on it and was placed very well by Federico Higuain. Columbus did a solid job of keeping possession, but they were lacking on that key pass in the final third.
One of the biggest differences between the teams in the first half was the shots on target. The Crew took five shots total, four of which were in the box and on target. Of the four shots taken by D.C. United, none were on target, two were blocked and they were all inside the box.
In the second half, D.C. United started to press and push forward more after Ola Kamara’s conversion of a penalty kick in the 66th minute. The foul involved Birnbaum and didn’t look to be as much contact as the play in the first half.
It all came down to being efficient in the final third. D.C. United had 13 total shots in the game, with just three being put on goal. Columbus had 7 shots, but 6 were on target. The Black-and-Red also drew more corners, six to one in favor of the Crew.
Another key issue on the night were the offsides calls, the home side got called off nine times. Maybe three to four were incorrect, but that’s not an excuse for D.C. United. Even with a few of those offsides calls being highly questionable, there were chances and nothing came out of them. Often than not, that final pass or first touch in the box was severely lacking.
The Black-and-Red have close to a two week break before playing their next game. They typically struggle in March, their all time record in the month is under .500 (11-16-8). Patrick Mullins went down within the first 30 minutes of the contest, Coach Olsen did confirm it was a hamstring injury after the game, but didn’t have a timetable on his return. D.C. United scoreless streak is now at 270 minutes and counting.
Acosta. The dynamic playmaker looked good in his season debut, much sharper than a few of his teammates up front. There was definitely an added pep in the attack with him on the field. Unfortunately for D.C. United, their scoreless streak to start the season continued. As he continues to regain his full fitness, the attack should get back to what it was at the end of last season.
Hamid. What else can be said? He handled every tough situation outside of the penalty kicks very well. On those two occasions, he guessed the correct way both times, but just couldn’t get to the ball.
Harkes. The youngster played the full 90 minutes and I liked him being paired with Acosta in the middle. They worked well together, thought he could have been on the ball a bit more. He definitely kept the ball moving when he did get it. Interested to see if he retains that spot next to Lucho going forward.
Bad decisions. Those came in the form of bad passes, poor first touches, and sometimes just a lack of awareness. There’s no excuse for getting 13 shots, nearly all of which were in or just outside of the box and only three be put on target. The Black-and-Red have to be sharper in that area of the field, they’ve yet to have a truly good performance as a group this year, but there were enough chances in the box for them to have put one in the back of the net.
Zach Steffens. The former Terrapin looked good in goal, while only a few shots were put on a target, he made a couple of very good saves and did a good job distributing the ball.