Missing a staggering 14 players to injuries, D.C. United fell 3-1 to the Columbus Crew today in what is the Black-and-Red’s last visit to Historic Crew Stadium before the venue is replaced later this year. Lucas Zelarayan’s direct free kick goal set United back, while two Frederic Brillant own goals ended up being the final margin of defeat. Ola Kamara, in his first action of 2021, gave the Black-and-Red their goal on the day.
Hernán Losada, who shifted from a 3421 to a 3412 formation today, had few options to choose from in selecting his starting eleven but made three changes due to new injuries. Andy Najar replaced Brendan Hines-Ike in the back three, while rookie Kimarni Smith stepped in for Erik Sorga to make his first MLS start up front. The injury problem got even worse during the team’s warm-up, with Adrien Perez getting his first United start as Joseph Mora was a late scratch after picking up a pre-game knock.
None of this changed Losada’s preference for an aggressive posture at the start, with Smith and Edison Flores (twice) both having decent looks in the first ten minutes. However, the positive opening still had more bad news for United, with the Crew taking a 1-0 lead under dubious circumstances in the 20th minute.
Lucas Zelarayan’s back swing on a shot attempt may or may not have made any contact with Yamil Asad, but referee Silviu Petrescu saw enough to call a foul about 24 yards from goal. From there, the Columbus star did the rest, curling a gorgeous free kick over the D.C. wall and beating Seitz to give the home side the lead.
The first half saw few chances either way from there, with United arguably getting closer to a genuine threat, while Columbus used possession to manage their lead without finding any openings to break forward.
The first goalmouth action of the second half came at United’s end, with Frederic Brillant having to clear a dangerous cross away from multiple runners in the 49th minute. Just seconds later, Chris Seitz produced a top save to deny Artur as the Black-and-Red couldn’t clear their lines.
United were having more of the game in the minutes that followed, only for their final third execution to repeatedly let them down. That set the stage for Columbus to pad their lead in the 63rd minute, with more misfortune coming D.C.’s way. Pedro Santos found some space to operate in down the left, but his low-angle shot was saved by Seitz. However, the Portuguese winger put enough power on his shot that it caromed off of Seitz’s gloves and right into the retreating Brillant, who had no time to dodge the ball and ended up deflecting it across the line in the 63rd minute.
United finally got their attacking execution right in the 82nd minute, giving themselves a glimmer of hope. Ola Kamara, who subbed in for his first minutes of 2021, held his run up, and Flores provided a delightful lob over the Crew defense. Waylon Francis kept Kamara onside, and the Norwegian calmly walked in before steering his shot past Room to make it 2-1.
However, the Black-and-Red’s bad luck was not over. Just a minute later, a cross from substitute Derrick Etienne Jr. saw Seitz and Brillant appear to miscommunicate. Seitz came for the ball, but Brillant jumped up to intercept, with his leaping touch glancing the ball past Seitz. Tony Alfaro tried to save the day, but the damage was done, with a second own goal making it 3-1.
From there, United were unable to offer more than some balls pushed into the box, with Columbus able to clear without much trouble, consigning United to three losses from their three-game road swing. With that in mind, United will welcome their return home for their next match. Thursday night, they host the Chicago Fire at 8:00pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 4
Columbus Crew (Zelarayan 20; Brillant 63og, 83og
D.C. United (Kamara 82
Crew (4231): Eloy Room; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah (C), Josh Williams, Waylon Francis; Artur, Darlington Nagbe; Luis Diaz (Derrick Etienne Jr. 65), Lucas Zelarayan, Pedro Santos (Alexandru Matan 92+); Bradley Wright-Phillips (Gyasi Zardes 57)
DCU (3412): Chris Seitz; Andy Najar (Felipe Martins 67), Frederic Brillant (C), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Junior Moreno, Moses Nyeman, Adrien Perez; Yamil Asad; Edison Flores, Kimarni Smith (Ola Kamara 75)
Crew - Wright-Phillips 29, Williams 30, Francis 58
DCU - Asad 42