If the Black-and-Red hope to make the playoffs this season, they will need to step on the gas. Although new head coach Wayne Rooney hasn’t officially started yet (he’s waiting on his work visa), tonight’s match was a good opportunity for D.C. United players to show their desire to pivot toward winning ways.
In the 7’, Andy Najar took a good run into Columbus’ defensive half, weaving his way through Crew defenders. Najar quickly found Jackson Hopkins, who took a touch to cross the ball to Taxi Fountas. Fountas had dug deep into the Crew’s back line to position himself in front of Eloy Room. A little too much spice put Fountas' shot over the bar, but the Black-and-Red’s early initiative would provide momentum as the match progressed.
The Crew’s Steven Moreira took a chance in the 15’, but his soft touch didn’t cause Rafael Romo any issues. Romo was able to easily collect the ball and send it on its way. Columbus continued to be tentative in the attack, lightly testing D.C. until the 40’ when Erik Hurtado found the back of the net. The celebration was short-lived for the Crew though. The flag was up.
Despite more than a handful of chances, the Black-and-Red couldn’t make the scoreboard before heading to the locker room. D.C. did, however, hold a promising 9-1 shot advantage over the Crew in the first half.
With Columbus determined to maintain their record on the road, they began to press the Black-and-Red in earnest. Cucho Hernández tucked his body behind Drew Skundrich to shield his intent from Romo, then curled a shot from distance into a waiting net in the 62’.
Both D.C. and Columbus were prompted by Hernández’s goal to step up their efforts on the attack. During a lively run of play in the 70’, Taxi Fountas was booked with a yellow after a collision with Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room. Official Rosendo Mendoza’s call drew ire from supporters at Audi Field and after review by VAR, the call was overturned and Room was booked for a bad foul.
It seemed sure that Taxi would net the ensuing penalty to put the Black-and-Red on the board, however, when Fountas stepped up to take the penalty kick he failed to convert. His right-footed shot went wide and to the left. Taxi Fountas wouldn’t be held back. He found his opportunity in the 80’, scoring his 10th goal in Black-and-Red.
A moment later, Cucho Hernández took back Columbus’ lead notching a brace in the 81’ with a diving header. Cucho benefited from a precise cross by Lucas Zelarayán that found him within striking distance of Rafael Romo.
Just when it seemed like Columbus would leave the District with all three points, four minutes of stoppage time were added to the match. In the dying moments, Ola Kamara capitalized on a set piece situation to find the back of the Crew’s net, securing the Black-and-Red’s equalizer and a point.
D.C. United travels north to face Minnesota United at Allianz Field on Saturday, July 16, at 8 pm ET.
- Jackson Hopkins has vision. With Julian Gressel out for the evening, Jackson Hopkins stepped up to create opportunities for the Black-and-Red. Hopkins displayed good judgment by delivering smart passes to Taxi Fountas and the rest of D.C.’s attack, stretching the Crew out in their defensive half. Hopkins said, “I mean, Taxi always makes good runs and the team’s getting me the ball in a good position so I’ve just got to pick my head up and look for the guy that’s been scoring all the goals. The coaches and players...they’re all super supportive and just always encouraging me.” Interim head coach Chad Ashton sees Hopkins as an “immense talent,” that will continue to develop as he logs minutes.
- Slow is fast. Lined up in a 3-4-2-1, the Black-and-Red were more patient on the ball and built out of the back. Interim head coach Chad Ashton has emphasized the need for D.C. to be more patient on the ball and tonight’s early form reflected this sentiment. Ashton said, “You could see that the guys understood what the thought process of the shape was, what it was supposed to look like, and then the other team starts to adjust, and then you need to be able to find other spaces on the field to be able to exploit...I thought overall our guys did a good job of being patient with the ball, building the game. That let us have more freedom in terms of not having to be able to defend for too long periods of time”
- Remarkable performances come from unexpected players. With players who are at the usual core of the roster unavailable, there are numerous opportunities for players to step up and earn a spot in the XI. Jackson Hopkins Kimarni Smith, Chris Odoi-Atsem, and Nigel Robertha all put in stellar performances tonight. Sami Guediri has performed so well over the past weeks that he earned himself a contract with the first team, moving up from Loudoun.
MLS Regular Season - Game 18
D.C. United: 2 Fountas 80’, Kamara 90’ + 2’
Columbus Crew: 2 Hernádez (62’ and 81’)
D.C. United (4-2-3-1): Rafael Romo, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Brendan Hines-Ike, Andy Najar (Sami Guediri 74’), Steven Birnbaum, Chris Durkin, Drew Skundrich (Tedi Ku-Dipietro 82’), Jackson Hopkins (Kimrani Smith 64’), Michael Estrada (Ola Kamara 64’), Taxi Fountas, Nigel Robertha
Columbus Crew (4-2-3-1): Eloy Room, Josh Williams, Pedro Santos, Jalil Anibaba, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe (Sean Zawadzki 82’), Aidan Morris, James Igbekeme (Lucas Zelarayán 46’), Luis Díaz (Yaw Yeboah 75’), Erik Hurtado (Cucho Hernández 46’), Derrick Etienne Jr.
D.C. United: Odoi-Atsem 22’, Skundrich 45’ + 3’
Columbus Crew: Room 72’, Santos 75’,