Tampa Bay Sports Day

United keeps hopes undampened by the rain, 1-0

DC United snapped a three game losing streak and kept their slim playoff hopes alive with an opportunistic 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew on a cold, rainy night at RFK Stadium.

United had only three shots at William Hesmer’s goal with none in the second half but Luciano Emilio capitalized on one of the precious few chances United could muster, finishing a nifty combination play with Boyzzz Khumalo just past the quarter hour mark of a first half.

Recently acquired goalkeeper Steve Cronin however was busy on the other end,fending off ten shots and commanding his penalty area

United head coach Tom Soehn took note earlier in the week of the Crew’s tendencies to sit back a bit on the road so he reverted to the 3-5-2 formation in hopes of taking the game to the yellow clad visitors early and often.

Although that did not materialize, they got the one chance they needed to win the game. He did finish the match with four in the back in hopes of protecting the lead, giving up on attacking freely in the miserable wet conditions

Dejan Jakovic got the call in the middle of the back line flanked by Julius James and Marc Burch. Lawson Vaughn came on in the second half to finish the match. The extra midfielder allowed Christian Gomez to push higher up the field in support of Emilio and Khumalo.

“Today was just about grinding out a result,” said Soehn. “The team showed a real commitment to working hard and defending, which you need to do at this stage in the season. Obviously everybody knows the importance of the game in keeping our playoff hopes alive. The guys grinded one out and gave everything they had.”

The Crew had several opportunities that didn’t necessarily translate into quality chances but spent most of the match with the ball and in United’s half of the park. They won the majority of 50-50 balls but the final penetrating passes in the attacking third were not of sufficient quality.

“I thought we played pretty well actually,” said Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers, “We outshot them, we kept the ball pretty well; we weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be in the final third but I think the field had something to do with it; it was really slippery and wet. It just wasn’t there.”

The Crew had an opportunity to clinch their second consecutive MLS Supporter’s Shield but their urgency was tempered by already having clinched home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup playoffs with their 1-0 win at New England last weekend.

“We played a good game. We dominated 90-minutes but good play by DC in the first half with the goal,” said Crew coach Robert Warzycha. “We lost the game 1-0 and I am not worrying about us scoring the goals. We have 49 points so we have actually scored a lot.

“Today wasn’t our day. We created chances and what is very important for me is that we created the chances. The goals are going to come when the time comes. We could be a little sharper in front of the goal, we had 10 shots but nothing went in.”

They also have an opportunity to advance to the knock out round of the CONCACAF Champions League with a win or draw at the Puerto Rico Islanders (USL-1).

“We treated this game as another game,” he continued. “We tried to win the game; I wasn’t thinking about the Supporter’s Shield. We are first in the East so that is a big accomplishment and that is more important for me than anything else is the home-field advantage.

“The positive thing is we are playing good soccer and we are dangerous when we play and creating chances and that is the positive I can take from this game.”

Khumalo’s darting run into the heart of the Crew back line provided the initiative for Emilio’s goal in the 17th minute. Khumalo stepped around Danny O’Rourke before pushing a clever ball past both Jed Zayner and Kevin Burns to the slashing Emilio.

As the ball seemed to nearly come to a stop on the soggy turf, Emilio flicked it over the sliding Hesmer but, with the turf in front of the goal knocked down a bit, the ball had enough impetus to trickle over the line ahead of O’Rourke’s valiant recovery attempt.

United could generate very little else with the field tilting toward Cronin’s goal the rest of the match. United acquired the veteran keeper on loan from the USL-1 Portland Timbers with regular starter Josh Wicks lost for the season due to injury.

“He had to be at his best eight minutes after United surged ahead denying Rogers on a strong left-footed volley from inside the top left corner of the penalty area that was labeled for the upper right corner of the net.

Cronin was tested again in the 40th minute on a strong header from Eddie Gaven from just outside the 6-yard box off a well floated ball from the left flank. Gaven had just come back on to the field, having to leave for a brief spell after taking he was slammed into by Hesmer as both vied for a dangerous Christian Gomez free kick.

As the rain streamed down at an even quicker rate while the second half moved along, United switched to four in the back, content to absorb anything the Crew had to offer and counter when the opportunities became available.

“It was just scrappy in the end. We put Lawson in there, because we knew we were going to have to battle,” said Cronin. “They put balls in the box and we won all the first balls and if I could clean up anything, I tried to play my role. The guys fought hard and it was a good win, good win for the team tonight.”

“We started the half in a 3-5-2, and I think they adjusted because we played first half 3-5-2 also, and they adjusted and said ‘forget it’ and throw numbers on the wings and they were stretching us, so we adjusted into a 4-4-2 and I think that helped a lot late in the game with the crosses,” said United defensive midfielder Clyde Simms.

Cronin continued his solid play however, punching a Gaven cross safely over the bar in the 62nd minute and clearing away a Frankie Hejduk floater nine minutes later with added vigor. In between those, he cleanly handled another dangerous near-post cross from Rodgers from the right flank.

Warzycha brought on forward Jason Garey in favor of Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the 56th minute and Emilio Renteria ten minutes later in hopes of changing the match. Schelotto has been hampered by a hamstring injury and has started only four of the Crew’s last 13 regular season games. Renteria had an immediate impact, darting past two United defenders but his right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area skidded wide of the far post.

Renteria was not long for the match however, ejected for chopping down James on a fairly innocuous play in the 83rd minute. As James outmuscled Renteria for inside position on a ball heading over the United endline, the Venezuelan hacked at James’ Achilles tendon after the ball went over the line earning a straight red from referee Alex Prus.

United can still earn a playoff spot but need help along the way.

“It’s crazy this year, anything can happen. We can still finish second in the conference, that’s how crazy things are,” said Soehn. “Right now all we’re concerned with is that we kept our hopes alive and put ourselves in a spot where we keep fighting for another day. So credit the guys, they fought their rears off today.”

Scoring Summary:
DC — Luciano Emilio 10 (Thabiso Khumalo 2) 17

Columbus Crew — William Hesmer, Frankie Hejduk, Eric Brunner, Jed Zayner, Eddie Gaven, Kevin Burns (Andy Iro 82), Adam Moffat, Danny O’Rourke, Robbie Rogers, Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Jason Garey 56), Steven Lenhart (Emilio Renteria 66),

Substitutes Not Used: Cory Elenio, Duncan Oughton, Gino Padula, Kenny Schoeni

D.C. United — Steve Cronin, Devon McTavish (Lawson Vaughn 46), Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, Marc Burch, Andrew Jacobson, Christian Gomez (Jaime Moreno 58), Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Luciano Emilio, Thabiso Khumalo (Danny Szetela 66),

Substitutes Not Used: Fred, Avery John, Milos Kocic, Tiyiselani Shipalane

D.C. United Columbus Crew
Total shots: 3 (3 tied with 1) 10 (3 tied with 2)
Shots on goal: 2 (Luciano Emilio 1,
Christian Gomez 1) 6 (Robbie Rogers 2)
Fouls: 12 (Rodney Wallace 3) 7 (5 tied with 1)
Offsides: 3 (Thabiso Khumalo 2) 1 (Robbie Rogers 1)
Corner kicks: 2 (Christian Gomez 2) 7 (Robbie Rogers 6)
Saves: 6 (Steve Cronin 6) 1 (William Hesmer 1)

Misconduct Summary:
DC — Devon McTavish (caution; Reckless Tackle) 6
CLB — Emilio Renteria (ejection; Violent Conduct) 83

Referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: Sean Hurd; Adam Wienckowski
4th official: Andrew Chapin
Time of game: 1:50
Attendance: 16,274
Weather: Rain -and- 45 degrees