D.C. United MLS 

D.C. United comes up short in PKs, Columbus advances

 The sellout crowd of 20,600 continued to show their support for their team after the final round of penalty kicks. Nick DeLeon had a chance to extend it another round with his team trailing 3-2. He stepped up and just hit it wrong, the ball sailed over the net and Zach Steffen had dove in the opposite direction. It was a gut wrenching moment for both DeLeon and D.C. United where they rode that roller coaster of emotion. Minutes earlier there was nothing but elation as he provided the equalizer and quite the opposite once that penalty kick went high. Both Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta saw their shots blocked by Steffen, Bill Hamid blocked the attempt from Gyasi Zardes and had a bead on Mullin’s attempt that hit the post. For the second straight year the Crew advanced past the Knockout Round with a win in PKs.

The Black and Red’s manager didn’t seem upset after the loss, he cited that his group was gutted at the way the season ended. He did talk about how proud he was of this group and how they can use this year, mainly how they closed the regular season as a way to lay the foundation for what’s to come.

It looked and felt as if the Black and Red were a bit nervy to start this one. Despite that, they were able to take a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute. After Arriola was taken down, Rooney played the ball to the far post on the ensuing set piece. It was too far wide for anyone to get a head on it, but Acosta was able to track it down. Luciano dribbled the ball towards the goal and lofted a dangerous pass that was just a bit too high for Steffen, Brillant did the right thing and ran to the loose ball, heading it into the goal. Columbus showed very early on, literally just a minute into the game how dangerous their quick passing could loosen up the backline of D.C. United. They were called for offside, but Columbus continued to have success providing service into the box. In the 16th minute Zardes got on the right end of a ball into the box, but Hamid was able to parry his header away. In the 30th minute, Meram put a dangerous ball into the box, there were a scrum of bodies, two defenders collided and the ball squirted away. Higuain was johny on the spot, getting a foot on the loose ball  to knock it past Hamid for the equalizer.

From that point on, the air appeared to be taken out of the home side’s sail. Columbus started to dictate the terms of the match, at least for the remainder of the half. Higuain went out of his way to earn a yellow in the 44th minute, on a D.C. United set piece he wouldn’t move back behind the spray painted line.

The physical play continued into the second half, where neither team could create separation. Columbus made it a point to take space away from Acosta so that he couldn’t create, they followed a similar plan of attack earlier when these teams met in the regular season. The physicality seemed to take it’s toll on the home side and the former playoff experience from the visitors was evident in key moments. The Crew never really let the Black and Red find their rhythm or seize the tempo. Rooney and Acosta did connect a couple of times late in regulation, resulting in two narrow misses from Lucho.

The Crew took a 2-1 lead in the first portion of overtime. In the 96th minute, Higuain got his brace and the service was provided by Harrison Afful. Olsen decided to insert Mattocks and Steiber during the first half of extra time, in the 14th minute Mattocks got the ball on the doorstep of the Columbus goal. He tried to evade a defender instead of shooting the ball, a prime opportunity missed. 

In the 116th minute, D.C. United got their equalizer. It came in the form of a Nick DeLeon volley, Rooney played a ball into the box on a set piece, Birnbaum got a header on it and Columbus appeared to clear it. It was a very poor clearance and Nick blasted the ball past Steffens, that goal is what led to penalty kicks just four minutes later.

 

 

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