D.C. United made the first road trip of the season to play Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field. Unfortunately, the Black-and-Red walked away empty-handed, losing 2-0 and giving Columbus all three points on “Crewmas.”

Columbus opened the match, buzzing off the energy of a buoyant sold-out home crowd. The clock had barely passed the 10′ when Lucas Zelarayán struck gold, capturing the ball from Cucho Hernández in the center of the box. With a quick turn, Zelarayán whipped his shot past Tyler Miller to score his first goal of the game.

Miller stepped up for D.C. United, saving a dangerous attempt by Alexandru Matan in the 34′ and giving the Black-and-Red an opportunity to turn over and mount an attack.

Christian Benteke worked his way through traffic to find a position right in front of Eloy Room in the 36′. A smart cross by Chris Durkin found Benteke waiting and had Black-and-Red supporters about to jump out of their seats. Unfortunately, his headed shot ended up over the crossbar rather than crashing into the net behind Room. Benteke found another opportunity a few minutes later but missed his attempt, the shot going wide and to the right.

Zelarayán made it a brace in the 44′, putting the Crew up 2-0. Taking advantage of a through ball by Matan, Zelarayán easily slipped behind the Black-and-Red’s back line to double the home team’s lead. D.C. head coach Wayne Rooney said, “I thought it was a tight game, but they were better and more clinical in the final third.”

Wilfried Nancy could be seen beaming from ear to ear on the sideline as it became increasingly clear that three points were in the Crew’s grasp. Nancy is still looking for improvement from his side. He said, “We struggled a bit at certain moments today. Yes, we won, but I would have preferred we have better control of the game at certain moments. So, this is something that we have to be a little bit better. Like I told you, the emotional control for me is really important. And today, we rushed the play when it was the moment to keep, to manipulate a little bit more the opposition.”

As the final whistle blew, the stadium exploded in cheers from the Columbus faithful, and new D.C. signing Pedro Santos could be seen hugging his former teammates.

Ultimately, the final score never tells the whole story of a match. Rooney remarked, “As I said, I think the performance wasn’t as bad as the result. Of course, we have to keep working, and as I said last week, we’re gonna lose games in this league. We know that, but we have to make sure we don’t give up opportunities or concede goals so easily. So that’s the challenge for us, and we have to be more clinical. I think we did okay; two, three, four really good chances, right? And we have to make sure we take them chances.”

D.C. United returns home to face Orlando City SC at Audi Field on March 11 at 7:30 pm ET.

Three Takeaways

  • Keep it clinical. The Black-and-Red certainly weren’t short on chances but were missing a bit of clinical finishing in the final third against the Crew. We look forward to the team coalescing and capitalizing on more of their chances as the season progresses.
  • Mentality matters. Despite going down two goals, the Black-and-Red played the match through to the end, a refreshing change of pace since Rooney has taken the helm.
  • Miller keeps it respectable. Tyler Miller shielded D.C. United from some very dangerous shots by a fiery Columbus. Once again, we’re thankful to have him between the sticks.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season – Game 2

Columbus Crew: 2 Zelarayán (10′ and 44′)

D.C. United: 0


Columbus Crew: Eloy Room, Philip Quinton, Milos Degenek, Mohamed Farsi, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Aidan Morris, Lucas Zelarayán (Sean Zawadzki 90’+1′), Cucho Hernandez, Yaw Yeboah (Luis Díaz 75′), Alexandru Matan (Kevin Molino 81′)

D.C. United: Tyler Miller, Mohanad Jeahze (Derrick Williams 85′), Pedro Santos (Jackson Hopkins 62′), Andy Nájar, Steven Birnbaum, Russell Canouse, Chris Durkin (Ted Ku-DiPietro 62′), Mateusz Klich, Victor Pálsson, Nigel Robertha (Yamil Asad 80′), Christian Benteke

Misconduct Summary

Columbus Crew: Yeboah 65′

D.C. United: Najar 59′, Klich 84′

Featured image courtesy of D.C. United, Hannah Wagner

BySarah Kallassy

Managing Editor

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Talonesque #

We saw some legitimately good play from Benteke tonight in the hold up department, which could be a sign he’s adjusting fully to the league at this stage. That would be good news, indeed.


His ability to receive the ball was fantastic. Just needs someone to lay it off to.

Talonesque #

Having said the above, I really hope Rooney is willing to mix up the game plan here, cuz there were a lot of issues that I don’t think reps necessarily overcome. Palsson wasn’t great as a CB, but the most frightening proposition was on the wings, both in midfield and at the fullback position. Shockingly easy to go through for Columbus, which obviously destabilizes the middle of the park when central players try to cover. This is particularly dire in a 4-4-2, where compactness and delineation of positional responsibility are the strengths. We were neither solid in our shape nor able to carry out simple defensive tasks system wide. Zelarayan was on fire, but he was also simply one of the Colombian players with the skill and composure to take advantage of massive exposed vulnerabilities, that if left that way, will see us lose consistently and decisively.

Talonesque #

Columbus players

Talonesque #

Here are the fixes I’d suggest: Remove Durkin from RM immediately. In isolation, he doesn’t fit, as he needs way too much time and space offensively to be reliable for service, and is still alarmingly bad in the tenacity department- in two games, I cannot remember a clean stop of a player on the dribble. In conjunction with Pedro Santos on the left wing, we have no speed going forward. I remain unconvinced that Pedro Santos himself will be an asset in the midfield as a winger, either, but let’s at least see what he’d look like opposite Hopkins or maybe Fletcher. I hate to say it, but PS’s wheels might also be an issue at his age, and might just be a fullback, or even fullback depth.

Next, Rooney’s gotta look at Najar and Jeahze. I legitimately don’t know if both of them can start, they’re both very offensive minded fullbacks, it seems. Either Ruan or Pedro Santos might have to come in for Najar, and hope that that provides some balance.

Lastly, the team needs to be drilled in how to move and utilize two banks of four if that’s going to be the formation. This has nothing to do with Taxi’s absence, last night the whole shape of was pulled any direction Columbus wanted, easily. Either limit space in behind, or drill that offside trap, as is, the players were just following defensively wherever the forwards went offensively. In defense, a 4-4-2’s strength is limiting service by forcing play wide and making central play a starving animal, but last night, that strength was absent.


Certainly agree that Durkin and Santos were the two biggest culprits. As Lloyd Sam said, Durkin is not a wide midfielder. He lacks pace and really isn’t that skillful on the ball. He should be in the middle, clogging things up. Santos also just doesn’t have the wheels for the job anymore. He’s depth, someone to bring in to maintain possession and kill off a game, not lead the line. Given that those two couldn’t get behind Columbus and were continuously beaten for pace down the touch lines, meant that Columbus could attack in waves. Now Palsson and Birnbaum aren’t the best CB pairing, but given that DCU’s weakness outside meant that Columbus could pick its spots to attack, I’m not sure any pairing could have stood up to that. The fundamental lack of pace on this roster will be an ongoing problem unless and until some pacier players are brought in. I seriously think that sometime soon one of Canouse or Durkin gets moved in exchange for a speedier winger who is currently bench bound on some other team as surplus to requirements.

Talonesque #

Geez, if it really does come down to keeping Durkin or Canouse, it would take some serious favoritism to choose Chris. Canouse at least knows how to tackle centrally, and is a quality MLS DM. I don’t even know what Durkin is.


Last night, I don’t remember seeing even a single clean tackle from Durkin. His go-to tackle was a shove from behind, usually on a player that wasn’t in a threatening position, because he was frustrated that the player was faster than him. He really lacks even the basic tackling ability to be placed in CM. I know I harp on this a lot, but I do not see a single valuable asset in Durkin. With Najar, for example, I’m happy to take the good with the bad. He gets burned often on the side but he also gets our team forward and creates goals. With Durkin I honestly have no positives I can look to. It baffles me to this day that we offered him another contract after his middling tenure in Belgium. He looks worse today than when he left us originally, yet he’s 23 years old and that’s when you should be getting better year after year.

Talonesque #

The season isn’t over by any means, clearly we knew this would be a tough game against a strong opponent. If we don’t see insightful adjustments, let alone no significant changes to the lineup next time, I’m going to be worried about Rooney as a coach. If it turns out he’s not willing or capable of correcting the deficiencies, personnel won’t matter.

Michael Carter

Great new site. Congrats!

Not a great showing from DC last night. At least the opener was a pleasant surprise.

Losadaball reigns supreme over Rooneyball on the defensive side, despite how widely criticized DC were for being open in the back when playing high-pressure, high-line style. (I say this glibly as this only stands true statistically for both coaches short DCU tenure).

I think its pretty fair to say a large part of this DC season rests on how many goals they give up. Continue at a clip of 2.0 GA/g and this will (almost certainly) be a worse season than the last. Way too small of a sample size to judge by now, but I’ll be watching how the defense gels over these first few months.


They played ok but definitely lack dynamics, I’m not sure how they fix that. Sitting Durkin for Najar and using Ruan’s wheels on the outside could be a start.
I thought Birnbaum and Palsson were straight up poor, bad passing and bad marking. Not sure what to do there, either, as Williams didn’t fill anyone with confidence when he came in.


Rumor has it that the Columbus crew are still looking for the ball that Durkin “crossed” from one end of the pitch to the other end of the Milky Way galaxy

[…] of D.C. United’s 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew by us (with more from us here), WaPo, and MLS. Massive Report with the other […]


I agree with both Coach Rooney and Coach Nancy’s assessment of the game.

Our team still has plenty to work on, specifically, redundancy in covering for overcommits in the back, and finishing. The possession game is going in the right direction. I thought they did alright against a Nancy coached team who programs against the other team being able to work the ball through their middle to final third transition.

I really like Benteke’s game. He is a very good player. Good target, holds the ball up, then makes a smart little run in the box to get that step and a half of space away from the defender. The guy has lots of quality. I can’t wait to see what kind of space he gets when Fountas is healthy again. Klich showed quality too as did Santos.

Coach Nancy is right in that the Crew need more on the attack than just Zelarayan and Cucho. Both players are stars but you can’t have two guys be the only threats, especially as the season drags on and the other teams can plan to contain just those two guys.

Finally, I really like Coach Nancy’s work. He did a miracle with the roster at Montreal and I look forward to seeing what he can do with the more talented Columbus roster. I just really like his approach to the game as it’s very similar to Coach Rooney’s where you focus on possession and keeping an even keel. I like how both coach’s teams run with purpose rather than running to run.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x