I'm going to be saying this a lot in this write-up: Juan Guzman is a coward. On a night where D.C. United traveled to Ohio and drew the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew 1-1, referee Juan Guzman is the story. And I hate it when the whistleman is the story.
D.C. United took an arguably undeserved lead into halftime, thanks to a spectacular counterattack goal from Fabian Espindola that was entirely made by Nick DeLeon's efforts. The Louisville product dispossessed early-season MVP frontrunner Federico Higuain at midfield and carried the ball well into the attacking half before releasing the Argentine forward, who blasted an absolutely nasty shot into the roof of the net. The Black-and-Red's organized defense, while completely ceding the attacking impetus to their hosts for the night, proved capable through the first 45 minutes of keeping the Crew well away from Andrew Dykstra's net.
That goal was really the only highlight either side really had in the first half. And in the second, Juan Guzman showed us all that he is a coward.
Again, it was a rather dull affair when the teams came back out. United forced Columbus to play in front of them, and countered when they could, but neither team did much that could be called inspired. Until Eddie Johnson turned Giancarlo Gonzalez - he of the elbow-and-dive (which earned a fine, but not a suspension) - at midfield and raced toward Steve Clark's goal. About 20 yards out, Gonzalez caught up with Johnson and brought him down from behind in what can only be described as a textbook example of a denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. During the chaos that followed, Crew midfielder Bernardo Anor thought it right and proper to push Fabian Espindola into the net for having the audacity to try and take the ball when United had a free kick.
But Juan Guzman is a coward. Despite providing the most obvious red card-worthy play of the young MLS season, Gonzalez only saw yellow, and Anor was unpenalized. Ultimately, Nick DeLeon's free kick went well above the crossbar, and Juan Guzman was a coward.
Anor must have had the class to feel bad for remaining on the field, as he very shortly went in on Perry Kitchen with a two-footed tackle, and Juan Guzman, coward that he is, could not help but send him off. But United would still fail to hold on 11-v-10.
Fabian Espindola was seemingly in on goal alongside Sean Franklin on a counterattack in the 90th minute when a bad touch allowed Wil Trapp to dispossess him and send Columbus the other way. He might have tried to pull the ball back and keep some possession, but his attacking instincts trumped, and he tried to shake the defender and his own momentum, failing on both counts. Trapp took control, and ball eventually found its way to Hector Jiminez, who beat Andrew Dykstra with a curling, dipping shot to the back post from the top of the 18 - in exactly the place that Sean Franklin would have been occupying had he not joined in the late glory-seeking counter. Ten-man (should-have-been-9-man) Columbus were level. All thanks to Juan Guzman's cowardice and United's inability to either manage the game or put the weakened opponent away.
In stoppage time, United had several almost-chances to retake the lead against a 3-man Columbus back line and were stopped at least once by strong individual play from a certain Giancarlo Gonzalez, who should not have been on the field (either for his violence-and-deception act against San Jose or for his DOGSO, you pick). But like I've said, Juan Guzman is a coward.
In the end, D.C. got a point on the road from the conference leaders. Perhaps we should look on the bright side and note that the fact that we are unhappy - downright angry - with a draw is such a contrast to 2013, when even a non-embarrassing loss was a step forward. But this one stings - we had three points all but sewn up, and we let two of them get away when there's no reason to have conceded an equalizer.
Ultimately, we are left with three take-aways from tonight: (1) United were generally second-best against a very strong Crew XI, but (2) they still should have closed out the game and claimed all three points thanks to a generally excellent-except-for-one-decisive-moment defensive effort from our boys in black. And (3) Juan Guzman is a coward.