The Columbus Crew defeated longtime rival DC United on Saturday night thanks to a second-half goal created by midseason signings Chris Birchall and Jairo Arrieta, while both Josh Williams and Dwayne De Rosario saw apparent goals called back because of offside calls. The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Crew.
Chris Birchall, signed in May to bolster the team's midfield, scored his first goal for the club barely a minute into the second half. Forward Jairo Arrieta spotted Birchall's run forward - kept onside by Daniel Woolard - and timed his pass into space perfectly, allowing the Trinidad & Tobago international to run onto the ball with a full head of steam. Birchall blasted his low, left-footed shot under goalkeeper Joe Willis, who reacted too late to effectively come off his line.
Coach Robert Warzycha continued to shuffle his lineup, making four changes from the team that lost to Kansas City last weekend. Two changes were required to replace the injured Bernardo Anor and suspended Emilio Renteria; he made two other changes to the defensive setup, turning once again to Sebastian Miranda on the right and Carlos Mendes in the center. Josh Williams, who played right back last weekend, found himself on the left side for this game. The fourth new player in the lineup this weekend was midfielder Justin Meram, who replaced Tony Tchani.
After a first half in which each team only occasionally threatened the opposing goal, left back Josh Williams appeared to score his first goal on a free kick from Justin Meram in the 44th minute. The linesman disallowed the goal, however, ruling that Williams had broken behind the defensive line too early. Video replays showed little support for the call, particularly in light of the oft-cited edict that the attacking player should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Birchall's goal moments into the second half put the home team in front officially, but the visitors had their own claims for a goal turned aside just minutes later. United took a corner kick from the Crew's right flank that found its way into a scrum of players directly in front of goal. A close-range shot from Chris Pontius was blocked by Justin Meram, sending the ball to Dwayne De Rosario inside the six-yard box. The veteran easily tapped the ball home but was standing in an offside position. In this case the video replay was more forgiving to the linesman, as De Rosario appeared to be a yard behind Meram when the shot was taken.
Over the course of the second half the visitors put the Crew under increasing pressure, particularly from second-half substitute Long Tan. Tan, recently acquired from the Vancouver Whitecaps, replaced Hamdi Salihi in the 72nd minute and created a number of chances from the Crew's right flank. The closest of these, in the 88th minute, came after De Rosario played a long ball behind the Crew defense. Tan ran onto the ball at the end line and faced off against Andy Gruenebaum before dropping the ball back to Chris Korb, whose shot rattled the near post and bounced away.
United continued to pressure the Crew defense in the closing minutes, winning four consecutive corner kicks as the game entered stoppage time. The Columbus defense, however - including substitutes Julius James and Eric Gehrig - did enough to close out the game and bring the Crew their seventh victory of the season.
What It Means
The Columbus victory lifts the team to a record of 7-7-4 (Win - Loss - Tie), with 25 points. This pushes them up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, leading a group of teams chasing the final playoff spots. They trail Chicago and Houston by six points, with two games in hand over each club.
DC's loss leaves them with 33 points, five points behind the conference-leading New York Red Bulls and four points behind Sporting Kansas City.
Timeline of Events
2' Corner Kick, Columbus (right) - foul called
7' Corner Kick, Columbus (left) - short, cleared
10' Corner Kick, Columbus (left) - headed clear
21' Corner Kick, DC (right) - cleared
32' Corner Kick, Columbus (left) - cleared
44' Apparent goal by Josh Williams called back
45' Corner Kick, DC (left) - cleared
46' 1-0 Chris Birchall (Jairo Arrieta)
50' Corner Kick, DC (right) - cleared
50' Apparent goal by Dwayne De Rosario called back
65' Maicon Santos replaces Lewis Neal
67' Caution, Sebastian Miranda (Professional Foul)
72' Long Tan replaces Hamdi Salihi
74' Ethan Finlay replaces Dilly Duka
76' Corner Kick, DC (right) - headed shot high
76' Julius James replaces Chad Marshall
76' Josh Wolff replaces Nick DeLeon
89' Eric Gehrig replaces Jairo Arrieta
91+' Corner Kick, DC (right) - cleared out for second corner
91+' Corner Kick, DC (left) - cleared out for third corner
91+' Corner Kick, DC (left) - cleared out for fourth corner
91+' Corner Kick, DC (right) - cleared
Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall (Julius James 76'), Carlos Mendes, Josh Williams, Chris Birchall, Justin Meram, Cole Grossman, Dilly Duka (Ethan Finlay 74'), Eddie Gaven, Jairo Arrieta (Eric Gehrig 89')
Matt Lampson, Nemanja Vukovic, Tony Tchani, Olman Vargas
Joe Willis, Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard, Nick DeLeon (Josh Wolff 76'), Perry Kitchen, Lewis Neal (Maicon Santos 65'), Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Hamdi Salihi (Long Tan 72')
Andrew Dykstra, Danny Cruz, Marcelo Saragosa, Emiliano Dudar
The Crew will play their next two games on the road, visiting Kansas City next Saturday followed by a visit to DC United the following weekend. Their next two games will be at home, to Toronto FC and Los Angeles.
DC will be off next weekend, and play three of their next four games at home. Their next competitive game will the a home game to the Crew on August 4th. Subsequent matches will be at Kansas City and home to Philadelphia and Chicago.