The Columbus Crew were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday night, losing 3-2 to DC United despite twice holding a one-goal lead. Eddie Gaven and Jairo Arrieta scored for the Crew, while DC received goals from Nick DeLeon, Marcelo Saragosa, and an injury-time winner from Lewis Neal.
Needing a victory to keep their postseason hopes alive, the Crew jumped out to an early lead thanks to Eddie Gaven. The veteran midfielder side-volleyed a loose ball home in the heart of the penalty area, setting a personal record for goals in a season with nine.
DC equalized in the 39th minute as Nick DeLeon scored off a rebound at the back post. Less than two minutes later, however, Jairo Arrieta had restored the Crew's one-goal advantage with a crafty curling shot. The strike, taken from just outside the penalty area, caromed off the right post and into Bill Hamid's trailing foot, rebounding into the goal.
Columbus was unable to defend their advantage in the second half, however, conceding a second equalizer on the hour mark. Marcelo Saragosa took advantage of a poorly-defended free kick, threading a left-footed shot through traffic from outside the area.
Despite playing with a tangible sense of urgency as the second half continued, the Crew were unable to take the lead a third time. Second half substitutions Dilly Duka had a positive impact after relieving Justin Meram, while Emilio Renteria was largely ineffective.
In stoppage time, with the team searching for yet another bout of late-game heroics, the team fell victim to a counter-attack that left the players ruing what might have been. Chris Korb thumped a clearance down the Crew's right flank, where Branko Boskovic flipped a cross over Chris Birchall to Lewis Neal. With no other field players within 20 yards, Neal had only to calmly shoot past the onrushing Andy Gruenebaum to seal the victory and condemn the Crew to their worst league finish since 2007.
What it means
The loss leaves the Crew with 49 points, four points behind Houston with only one game to play. Columbus finished the season with just two wins in their final seven games.
4' Caution, Jairo Arrieta
7' 1-0 Eddie Gaven (unassisted)
26' Caution, Carlos Mendes
39' 1-1 Nick DeLeon (unassisted)
41' 2-1 Jairo Arrieta (Federico Higuain)
59' Caution, Josh Williams
59' 2-2 Marcelo Saragosa (Brandon McDonald)
64' Dilly Duka replaces Justin Meram
69' Lewis Neal replaces Maicon Santos
73' Emilio Renteria replaces Sebastian Miranda
82' Hamdi Salihi replaces Lionard Pajoy
87' Branko Boskovic replaces Chris Pontius
88' Tony Tchani replaces Milovan Mirosevic
91+' 2-3 Lewis Neal (Branko Boskovic, Chris Korb)
Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda (Emilio Renteria 73'), Carlos Mendes, Danny O'Rourke, Josh Williams, Chris Birchall, Justin Meram (Dilly Duka 64'), Milovan Mirosevic (Tony Tchani 88'), Eddie Gaven, Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta
Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Nemanja Vukovic, Ben Speas
Bill Hamid, Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb, Perry Kitchen, Marcelo Saragosa, Nick DeLeon, Andy Najar, Maicon Santos (Lewis Neal 69'), Chris Pontius (Branko Boskovic 87'), Lionard Pajoy (Hamdi Salihi 82')
Joe Willis, Ethan White, Robbie Russell, Emiliano Dudar
The Crew will finish the 2012 season with a home game against Toronto FC next Saturday.