With that out of the way, let's see what's being said around the intertubes about D.C. United's playoffs-clinching 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew.
What They're Saying About It
Shatzer: We weren't surprised to see both teams going for the win, with so much at stake in the dying moments of the game and the dying moments of the season. With just stoppage time to go, United caught the Crew pushing forward without numbers in defense. But it was the work rate of Hamdi Salihi that created the chance. Salihi's pressure helped D.C. keep possession, pushing the ball back to Chris Korb. The right back was active all day both on offense and defense, but his perfect cleared cross was part of what made the difference in the match, along with Branko Boskovic's no-look over-the-shoulder pass to Neal. A no-look over-the-shoulder pass is difficult to do in basketball, a sport in which players get to use their hands. Its even more difficult in a sport where you can only use your feet. Neal will go down as the hero, but his one-touch finish may have actually been the easiest part of the entire play, a play that will live on in United history.
Webb: With a downsized sellout of 19,647 in attendance, Lewis Neal's 93rd minute toe-poke past Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenenbaum set off an explosion of delight and satisfaction from the United bench and everyone in attendance as the Black-and-Red won their fifth match out of their past six and ended the regular season with a team-record 16 game unbeaten run at RFK Stadium.
Goff: In extending its unbeaten streaks at home (12-0-4) and overall (5-0-1), United (17-10-6, 57 points) overtook the Chicago Fire (17-11-5, 56) for second place in MLS's Eastern Conference and drew within three points of Sporting Kansas City with one week remaining. Sporting can clinch the top seed with a victory or draw at home Wednesday against Philadelphia. D.C. will visit Chicago on Saturday with an opportunity to secure a first-round bye and an automatic spot in the conference semifinals, which begin in two weeks.
Cammarota: "I don't think we'll realize how big a win this was tonight until we've slept on it a little and wonder whether we've dreamed," said Neal, whose breakaway strike was his second of the season. Remarkably, United haven't lost in the six matches (5-0-1) since team captain and 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario was sidelined with a grade III MCL sprain. On Saturday, United not only faced a side with a winning record for the first time in five matches, but a team fighting to extend their season. Twice D.C.'s previously struggling offense overcame a one-goal deficit to eliminate the Crew from playoff contention. "I'm so excited, I can't even explain it. It's been a while since I've felt like this," midfielder Chris Pontius said. "This is one of the biggest moments of my professional career. To fight back like that in the manner that we won is amazing."
Katzeman (Massive Report): To quote a famous cartoon pig, "That's all folks." A 3-2 away loss in the nation's capital against D.C. United on Saturday night clinched the Columbus Crew's postseason fate. Unfortunately, it is a different fate for the first time since 2008, as they will not be taking part in the playoffs.
What I'm Saying About It
We've said all year that playoffs were the target; once we're in, anything can happen. Six games ago, just before Dwayne De Rosario left for Canadian National Team camp, we were on the outside of the playoff positions looking in. No longer. Ben Olsen has his team sitting second in the Eastern Conference, just three points out of first place with one game left to play.
I'll be the first to admit that this improbable climb up the standings wasn't always pretty. It wasn't against top-quality opposition. But, to indulge in a cliche, you can only beat the team in front of you. And in five of the last six games, that's exactly what our Capitalinos have done. They've won at home and on the road, by 1-0 and by 3-2. And now we're in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. For me, for today, I don't care how it looked: it feels fucking fantastic.
Bill Hamid, a bit unlucky on Arrieta's
sure-fire Goal of the Week nominee curling, long distance strike of the post (which somehow wasn't nominated for GotW), continues to inspire confidence. The defense let in multiple goals for the first time since we lost DeRo, but the partnership of Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald looked generally strong after a shaky first few minutes. Perry Kitchen is who we thought he was: a very, very good - maybe even better - defensive midfielder in the making; he even does just enough of the off-the-ball extracurriculars to get into opponents' heads but never so much that he's drawing the attention of the man with the whistle. We are watching Marcelo Saragosa rewrite the book on himself - the bite is still there, but the cards aren't as frequent, and his passing and positioning and calming ability are all improved. Our wings continue to look dangerous, even more so with the growing familiarity Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon are developing with overlapping fullbacks Chris Korb and Andy Najar - the two of whom will almost always be two of the three fastest players on whatever field they step onto. Up front, there are little glimpses of the Maicon Santos we remember from this team's breakout spring, and Pajoy never stops running and pressuring opposing defenders. Our bench remains one of the scariest in MLS, with the ability to bring in a finisher who is showing more and more willingness to put in the hard work and a string-puller who can make Steve Nash no-look passes, with his feet.
Every one of these players has his flaws. They may prove to be fatal to this team once we enter the second season. But for all its faults, D.C. United are playoff-bound and could find themselves with a chance to host the big'n on December 1 at the newly refortified Fortress RFK, where we haven't lost since March.
It's Monday, and the team will be back to work before the day is out, but I'm a fan. I'm celebrating today.