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Second half onslaught for United in 3-0 win over Crew

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Lloyd Sam opened the scoring in the second half, before Lamar Neagle and Alvaro Saborio confirmed win late

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United won the back to back games for the first time this season, beating Columbus Crew SC 3-0 on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. Four days after a season altering win over Orlando City, United finally broke through in the second half, as Lloyd Sam scored the eventual game winner in the 71st minute. Substitutes Lamar Neagle and Alvaro Saborio were able to take advantage of a tired Crew side late on, notching the final goals in the 86th and 90th minutes.

Manager Ben Olsen made one change to the starting eleven that beat up on the Lions in United’s last outing. With Marcelo Sarvas out with a knee sprain, Jared Jeffrey took his place, in Jeffrey’s first game in a month since suffering a concussion against the Chicago Fire. Julian Buescher, who deputized for Marcelo against Orlando, took his place back back on the bench.

Needing a win to capitalize on their 4-1 drubbing of Orlando City on Saturday, United came out of the gate sluggish, unable to mount much offensively in the first half. Most of the possession and attacking went Columbus’ way, a team just as desperate for a win as United. Ola Kamara had the first crack at goal, but his long range shot in the first minute was held by Bill Hamid.

Patrick Nyarko, Luciano Acosta, and Patrick Mullins all had moments in which there were opportunities to be had early on, but through various ways, none of them could find the crucial touch. Nyarko picked out the wrong pass, Acosta slipped in the open field, and Mullins was offside as Nyarko broke towards goal after winning the ball in midfield.

Hamid was called into action in the 22nd minute, as Ethan Finlay’s foray down the right hand flank ended with a dangerous cross into the box. Hamid punched that one out, and then had to claim Harrison Afful’s shot, as the right back was able to get a shot away from near the corner of the box.

Finlay forced another effort from Hamid in the 25th minute, as a cross from the winger was claimed in the box by Hamid, who just beat Kamara to the ball. Kamara tried to return the favor three minutes later, but the through ball for Finlay was just out of reach, as Hamid was quickly off his line to claim.

Despite the indifferent play up to that point, United should have gone ahead in the 31st minute, as Patrick Mullins was denied on the doorstep. Nick DeLeon’s long ball over the top of the defense found Sam down the right, allowing the winger space to whip in a cross. Sam’s cross was perfectly placed for Mullins, but the header was saved by keeper Steve Clark, and Michael Parkhurst reacted quickest to clear out the secondary danger.

Tony Tchani had half of a chance in the 35th minute, as United struggled to clear a ball in their own box. The big midfielder was finally able to get control of the ball, before firing a shot goal-bound shot, that was blocked in front of goal by Rob Vincent.

But for two teams needing a win, the first half drained away with out any more danger, and the second half seemed to pick up right where the first left off. Neither team, despite the rain holding off, could get much of a foothold, or find the crucial opening goal.

Justin Meram was the danger man for Columbus early in the second half, as he was able to run at United’s defense time and time again. None of those attacks resulted in any dangerous chances, and it looked like a frustrated Meram decided to try his luck in the 52nd minute, with the outcome never in doubt.

Acosta, just like Mullins in the first half, should have handed the Black-and-Red the advantage in the 61st minute, failing to capitalize on a give and go in the box. It was sloppy from both sides, but Acosta eventually claimed the ball in the box, quickly passed the ball to Sam, and then picked up the return pass. Acosta’s shot got past the onrushing Clark, but skipped just wide of the near post.

The Crew were then uncomfortably close to finding the opener in the 66th minute, courtesy of a free kick from Mohammed Saeid. The midfielder’s free kick into the box was just right for Wil Trapp, who won a header, and directed it towards goal. Hamid was at full stretch trying to reach the bouncing shot, but the ball was just past the post, saving United’s blushes.

From there, it was all United the rest of the way. Sam found the breakthrough in the 71st minute, firing in his third goal for United. Acosta, rushing towards goal with the ball, dinked a pass over the back line into the box for Sam. Sam was able to gather the ball, hold off Parkhurst, and then fire back across goal. There was little Clark could do, as Sam gave United what turned out to be three points with his winning goal.

There was one more moment of danger for Columbus, as Hamid intervened perfectly to keep United ahead. Tchani played a ball into the box for Kamara, who had up to that point, had been quiet for the Crew. But Kamara crossed in from the right, looking for substitute Adam Jahn at the far post. Hamid got a leg to the cross, deflecting it just past Jahn, who was unmarked for what would have been a simple tap in.

Columbus, who played on Sunday night before making the trip to the nation’s capital, wore down at the end, allowing United several opportunities to cash in on their victory. Substitute Julian Buescher just missed on connecting with Mullins on a ball over top, as Clark rushed off his line to clear the ball out.

Three minutes later though, and Neagle secured all three points for D.C. A goal kick up from Hamid bounced to Nyarko on the wing. Nyarko quickly played towards the middle for Buescher, who saw that Neagle was all alone at the top of the box. Buescher’s pass allowed Neagle to collect his thoughts before firing past Clark for the two goal advantage.

And the final tally came in the 89th minute, as Saborio notched his fifth goal of the season for United. Another long ball from Hamid allowed Neagle to get by a challenge outside of the box, opening up acres of space. Neagle made his way down to the box, before cutting in, and finding Saborio in front of goal. The Costa Rican made no mistake with his first timed shot, slotting a shot by Clark for the final 3-0 count.

United, with 40 points from 31 games, head to the Toronto on Saturday to face the Reds.