D.C. United picked up a much-needed win tonight, defeating the Columbus Crew 3-1. Luciano Acosta, Wayne Rooney, and Paul Arriola all had goals in a game where much of the conversation will center on referee Ted Unkel and several VAR decisions. Nonetheless, it was a vital win for United after April saw the Black-and-Red struggling for form.
The game started slow, but quickly gained momentum after the 16th minute. After colliding into Luciano Acosta, the referee, Ted Unkel, cost the home side possession, allowing Columbus Crew to race toward Hamid and take control. Crew winger Pedro Santos intelligently weaved his way to the right with the ball, and fired a diagonal shot to gain the 1-0 lead. Seconds later, Unkel consulted VAR and waved off the goal for an apparent foul on Wil Trapp in the build-up.
In the 27th minute, Rooney stood over a free kick near midfield, and curled the ball beautifully into the box to reach Leonardo Jara. Jara, who appeared lively and dynamic throughout the first 20 minutes, brought the ball down, and fired the first shot into Zack Steffen. Fortunately, Acosta found the rebound after it bounced off of the Columbus Crew goalkeeper, and drove it into the net for the lead.
After the goal, the match’s tempo increased with both sides fought for possession. As the game progressed, the Black-and-Red’s intensity grew, reaching their opponent’s box more quickly.
Minutes before halftime, Unkel was forced to consult VAR for the third time, to review a possible handball by Trapp. The official rushed back onto the pitch to announce the call: a penalty.
Rooney marched to the spot, where Zack Steffen had bested him in last season’s playoffs. This time, though, the English superstar’s aim was true, with a powerful shot giving Steffen no chance, and sending United into the locker room with a 2-0 lead.
In the 52nd minute, Frederic Brilliant failed in containing Gyasi Zardes from threatening the score, leaving Bill Hamid to execute a fantastic save to maintain the shutout.
United responded to the Crew’s threats with undeniable passion and momentum. Jara continued to stun spectators by gaining possession at the center and weaving in and out through defenders to penetrate the box on the right side. Once in proximity to Steffen, Jara back-heeled the ball to Arriola, whose low shot deflected off of Waylon Francis before entering the goal.
The goal difference did not intimidate Columbus, who continued to fight for possession and opportunities. In the 75th minute, a mishandled corner kick by United saw the Crew make a dent in the score. Robinho’s curling service was probably going in, challenging Hamid, who tried to block the attempt before the ball slipped between his hands and into the goal.
United didn’t let Columbus get any closer, however, seeing the game out with minimal fuss. The win boosted the Black-and-Red to 20 points, good enough to be tied atop the Eastern Conference (with the Philadelphia Union ahead on goal difference).
United will look to turn this into a winning streak next Sunday, when they take on Sporting Kansas City at home in a game that will kick off at 7:00pm.
MLS Regular Season (Game 11)
D.C. United 3 (Acosta 27, Rooney 49+pen, Arriola 61)
Columbus Crew 1 (Robinho 75)
DCU (3421): Bill Hamid; Frederic Brillant, Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum; Leonardo Jara, Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Lucas Rodriguez; Paul Arriola (Ulises Segura 85), Luciano Acosta; Wayne Rooney (C)
Crew (4231): Zack Steffen; Hector Jimenez (Luis Argudo 75), Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Waylon Francis; Wil Trapp (C), Artur; Pedro Santos, Federico Higuain (Niko Hansen 65), Robinho; Gyasi Zardes (J.J. Williams 65)
DCU - Moreno 53
Crew - Trapp 26, Higuain 48+