With the Columbus Crew edging toward a second consecutive home loss, midfielder Hector Jimenez produced an equalizing goal from the barest of chances to earn the home team a 1-1 draw. Wil Trapp started the crucial play, stripping Fabian Espindola and finding Jimenez with the sort of long, cross-field pass that had eluded the team for most of the evening.
That the Crew were even in a position to level the game was something of a miracle in itself. Bernardo Anor had been sent off with a straight red card ten minutes before, and Giancarlo Gonzalez had been extremely fortunate to avoid the same fate after fouling Eddie Johnson as the last defender.
As any long-time observer can attest, however, there are times when the ball bounces your way. Saturday night was such a night for the Crew, who - despite their usual dominance in most possession statistics - struggled for much of the evening to legitimately pressure the organized defense in front of Andrew Dykstra.
Over the course of the evening, the Crew held significant edges in possession and passing accuracy - even in the attacking third of the field. Too often, however, the team's possession foundered on the United defensive shape. Dominic Oduro started brightly but faded as the game progressed, looking increasingly stranded at the top of the Crew's attack. Bernardo Anor saw the ball with regularity but was unable to produce many chances via the dribble or pass. Josh Williams and Waylon Francis - crucial under Gregg Berhalter's system for putting pressure on the flanks - lacked the space they'd found with regularity early in the season.
United, meanwhile, took full advantage of an early defensive miscue to score the game's first goal. Federico Higuain's loose touch in midfield gifted possession to Nick DeLeon, who dribbled uncontested toward the penalty area before finding Fabian Espindola unmarked to the right of Steve Clark. With both right back Josh Williams and right winger Hector Jimenez caught upfield and unable to recover, Espindola had a relatively easy look at goal before blasting the ball into the roof of the net.
The visitors could have doubled their advantage just minutes into the second half. Espindola and Chris Rolfe hustled into a 2-on-1 opportunity in the 48th minute, but Rolfe's pass was behind the striker and Espindola could only just get his foot on the ball to stop it before a Crew defender thumped it clear. That miscue ultimately set the stage for Jimenez' late-game heroics.
Columbus will stay in Columbus for their next game, hosting New York next Saturday evening. Their following two games will be on the road, visiting Kansas City on May 4th and Houston on May 7th.
Timeline of Events
8' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - short, cleared)
16' Corner kick, DC (right side - headed clear)
18' Caution, Dominic Oduro (simulation)
31' 0-1 Fabian Espindola (Nick DeLeon)
39' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - headed clear)
57' Lewis Neal replaces Chris Rolfe
62' Justin Meram replaces Waylon Francis
62' Jairo Arrieta replaces Dominic Oduro
67' Caution, Perry Kitchen (Delay of Game)
69' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed wide)
71' Caution, Gioncarlo Gonzalez (tackle from behind)
75' Conor Doyle replaces Eddie Johnson
78' Ethan Finlay replaces Tony Tchani
81' Ejection, Bernardo Anor (reckless tackle on Perry Kitchen)
85' Alex Caskey replaces Nick DeLeon
89' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
90' 1-1 Hector Jimenez (Wil Trapp)
Steve Clark, Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis (Justin Meram 62'), Hector Jimenez, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani (Ethan Finlay 78'), Bernardo Anor (sent off 81'), Federico Higuaín, Dominic Oduro (Jairo Arrieta 62')
Matt Lampson, Chad Barson, Tyson Wahl, Agustin Viana
Andrew Dykstra, Leo Fernandez, Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, Chris Rolfe (Lewis Neal 57'), Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Nick DeLeon (Alex Caskey 85'), Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson (Conor Doyle 75')
Joe Willis, Nana Attakora, Steve Birnbaum, Collin Martin