D.C. United went from second place to fourth in the Eastern Conference on Sunday as they were completely outplayed on Decision Day, losing 5-0 to Columbus Crew SC. Instead of having a bye into the conference semi-finals, United's loss means they will now host the New England Revolution on Wednesday in the first round of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Jack McInerney, filling in for the suspended Kei Kamara, gave Columbus the first half lead, coolly finishing after being played in by Mohammed Saeid. United found their way back into the game as the first half wore on, but a four goal outburst in the second half doomed United to the loss.
Head coach Ben Olsen went with the same starting eleven that had served United well in their previous two games, wins over New York City FC and the Chicago Fire. But United struggled with McInerney for most of the first half, as the former Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact striker gave DC's defense fits all throughout the first half.
Waylon Francis had a look at goal in the first minute for Columbus, only to see his teammate Justin Meram deflect the ball over. A Columbus break down the right minutes later was dangerous, though it went without a crucial touch to turn it in for a goal.
Markus Halsti had a look from outside the box in the 13th minute for United but the Finnish midfielder saw his effort from outside the box skip just wide of the goal.
McInerney nearly turned in a Harrison Afful cross in the 14th minute, only to be denied by a late challenge by Bobby Boswell. McInerney got on the end of the resulting corner kick but put his header over the goal, before a Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon break the other way resulted in a weak shot by Fabian Espindola straight at Steve Clark.
Moments before his goal, McInerney forced a huge save out of Bill Hamid, with United's keeper making himself big at the back post to save McInerney's header from Saeid's cross. Sean Franklin cleared the rebound as United just managed to keep the game scoreless.
United had been walking a fine line, but that ended in the 25th minute as McInerney broke through to give the Crew the lead with his sixth goal of the season. A poor touch from Taylor Kemp gifted the ball to Columbus in DC's half, and Saeid quickly picked out McInerney's run in behind the defense, with the striker making no mistake in finishing off of the post.
The Black-and-Red were able to settle into the game after falling behind, but neither of their two chances to end the half did the trick. Espindola's cut back in the box resulted in a deflected shot from Pontius that was looping into the goal, but Clark was able to react quickly enough to push the ball over for a corner. And a nice looking move soon thereafter ended with an Espindola cross near the end of the half, but Franklin's back post header was straight at Clark.
Whatever happened at halftime though only favored the Crew, as United were completely outplayed in conceding four goals in the half. Kevan George, who came on for an injured Saeid late in the first half, sliced a shot just wide from the top of the box in the 48th minute, before McInerney just failed to turn Francis' cross on target three minutes later.
But the game was all but over in the 54th minute, as Meram added to Columbus' lead on a lax defensive effort from United. A long ball from center back Michael Parkhurst picked out Meram out wide on the left, with only Franklin in the vicinity. Meram turned Franklin in the box, as slipped a shot underneath Hamid in goal for the insurmountable 2-0 lead.
With United looking disinterested, Columbus continued to come forward in waves, and in a two minute span, Ethan Finley scored twice - his 11th and 12th goals of the season - to put shame to United's efforts on the day. In the 66th minute, a ball from midfield was perfectly timed for McInerney, who was in on goal with just Hamid to beat. Hamid was quick off his line to cut down the angles, but was helpless as McInerney laid off for Finlay, who was also all alone to just about walk the ball into the net.
Seconds later, Finlay added his second. Tony Tchani was given plenty of time to pick out Finlay on the right, and the midfielder did well to turn Kemp like a corkscrew in the box to create space. The second turn did the trick perfectly, and even from a tight angle, Finlay was able to find a space past Hamid for the 4-0 lead.
Just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse for United, substitute Aaron Schoenfeld compounded their misery, adding the Crew's 5th goal in the 80th minute. No one cared to close down Francis out wide on the left, and his cross in was perfect for Schoenfeld, who laid out to poke a shot past Hamid for the 5-0 romp.
United finish the season on 51 points, and will now host the Revolution in a winner-take-all game on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium.