It was like teeth without a bite. It was sparks without fire. D.C. United flirted with first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, but could not find a way to finish any of their promising attacks in a 0-0 draw with the Columbus Crew Saturday at Fed Ex Field.
In the first match of the doubleheader as part of the Road to Brazil series, Spain ignited with two second half goal to secure a win over El Salvador. The Black and Red hoped to replicate the defending world champions. Instead the game remained scoreless into stoppage time when D.C. United was awarded a penalty kick. It stayed that way; Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark easily saved the penalty.
The way it ended summed up the match. Expecting Clark to dive in one direction or the other, Fabian Espindola went with a soft touch right down the middle. Clark didn’t move and easily collected Espindola’s weak effort. United remains in second place on 22 points from 14 matches with a Wednesday match at Montreal.
“The first 25 minutes I thought was really good. I don’t think it was the greatest night for us, as a whole, but the first half was pretty good. We did enough to get a couple of really good looks and we probably should have come [into the second half] with a goal or two. [Columbus] brought some juice in the second half and had a real stamp on the game.”
- United is still for real, but…. With the draw United’s home unbeaten streak reached eight games. Still this is a tight Eastern Conference in MLS and it is the second time in less than a month that United left valuable points at home on the table. In May there was a 1-1 draw with last place Montreal when the full three points were expected. United has quality players in its attack, but in the last three games overall has managed only two goals and one of them was a cross by Espindola that last week fooled Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Eric Kronberg. United’s work rate is not a question. The high press approach on Saturday had Columbus on its heels early. The final third needs to be better. The pass and timing of runs are not in synch.
- Steve Birnbaum is the real deal. Drafted number two overall in MLS’s 2014 SuperDraft, Birnbaum started in the center of defense for the injured Jeff Parke. Two days ago Parke suffered a foot injury in training. Birnbaum stepped right now and had a flawless night. From his positioning to his marking, Birnbaum responded to every challenge. As the game went on and his confidence grew, Birnbaum also showed his ability to distribute the ball from the back. He fit right in with a United defense that now has six shutouts in its last eleven games.