For DC United, the month of March cannot end soon enough. Mercifully for the team from the nation’s capitol, there is the reprieve of a bye week next weekend to focus on righting the ship. While it is not yet time for United to hit the panic button, Saturday’s loss at home to the Columbus Crew showed that there is still plenty of work to be done to get the black-clad RFK warriors into playoff shape.
For the Columbus Crew, Saturday’s match earned them their first points within the Eastern Conference after a three-game swing against the west to open the season. Despite the absence of normal striker Jairo Arrieta, who was on the bench for Costa Rica (but mercifully did not play) during their blizzard match in their World Cup qualifier against the U.S. men’s national team on Friday night, Columbus showed they are primed to challenge in the east this season.
It was a pair of fullbacks who initiated the first goal for Columbus, as Tyson Wahl’s 15th-minute free kick found Josh Williams six yards out for the header past DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The lead would last but seven minutes, as offseason Brazilian loan acquisition Rafael potted a half-volley in the 22nd, a masterstroke of a goal. Running onto a Chris Pontius header, the 20-year-old Designated Player controlled the ball, turned around Crew center back Glauber and launched a darting 35-yard strike that beat out-of-position Columbus keeper Andy Gruenebaum for the equalizer.
The game would be level at the break largely thanks to the continued stellar goalkeeping of Hamid. The keeper, playing so well this season that he was named to EA Sports FIFA Ultimate Team of the Week last week, would turn away seven more shots during the contest to add to his league-leading total after four matches.
But ultimately there would be one more that he could not get. With DC looking weak against set pieces all day, it seemed inevitable that United would eventually concede one too many. Hamid had stopped four point-blank attempts on a corner kick less than five minutes later, but as his defender slipped on a clearance of a Federico Higuain free kick in the 58th minute left winger Ben Speas pounced on the rebound. With Hamid unable to get to the shot in time, Speas scored the first goal of his MLS career on the rebound. As time ran out on DC, the former college national champion (with both Akron in 2010 and North Carolina in 2011) had nabbed the game winner with his inaugural score.
COLUMBUS CREW @ DC UNITED
March 23, 2013
- 15′ — CLB/Josh Williams (Tyson Wahl)
- 22′ — DC/Rafael (Chris Pontius)
- 58′ — CLB/Ben Speas (unassisted)
- DC (4-1-2-1-2): Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Daniel Woolard, Brandon McDonald, James Riley (Carlos Ruis/81′); Perry Kitchen; Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon (Kyle Porter/31′); Dwayne De Rosario; Lionard Pajoy, Rafael (Lewis Neal/70′)
- CLB (4-4-1-1): Andy Gruenebaum; Tyson Wahl, Glauber, Chad Marshall, Josh Williams; Ben Speas (Ethan Finlay/88′), Agustin Viana (Matias Sanchez/89′), Danny O’Rourke, Eddie Gaven; Federico Higuain (Tony Tchani/89′); Dominic Oduro