There was plenty of drama to go around Saturday evening as D.C. United was downed by the Columbus Crew, 0-2; the field was awash with gritty play and yellow cards galore from referee Rosendo Mendoza. In the end, the Black-and-Red were left only with frustration as the Crew claimed all three points.

“We could have been out there two or three days and not scored. It’s not much fun for us. I’m disappointed in the result, disappointed with the officials, disappointed with VAR. But I’m happy with the players, with how they kept on.” said D.C. head coach Wayne Rooney.

D.C. United has bested Columbus Crew 32 times in regular season play since the league formed in 1996, with 23 of those wins at home. Unfortunately, tonight wouldn’t add to the Black-and-Red’s tally against the Crew. Columbus has dominated their last two matches, taking down Real Salt Lake 4-0 and Atlanta 6-1. Even before the first whistle, it was evident this would be a challenging match for the Black-and-Red.

D.C. tried from the beginning of the game to put the pressure on Columbus, no doubt looking for an early lead. Lined up 4-4-2 with Mateusz Klich and Pedro Santos on the wings, it was difficult to get the speed necessary to outstrip the Crew. Columbus was able to force turnovers and accelerate, placing D.C. in jeopardy. Thankfully, the backline held well, able to deny the Crew’s advances.

A still acclimating Taxi Fountas struck early for D.C. United, firing a shot in the 11′. Unfortunately, his attempt was blocked. Since his return from injury, Fountas has been honing in on the clinical finishes he’s proved incredibly capable of in the past.

Columbus was not content to merely force turnovers and test the Black-and-Red’s defenses. They set out to exploit any sign of weakness from D.C. United. Fouls ensued at every turn, and it seemed only a matter of time before a penalty would be awarded. All of Mendoza’s whistles seemed to be for Rooney’s men.

Finally, in the 35′, Alexandru Matan and Russell Canouse got into a dustup in the box. With a whisper of contact from Canouse, Matan went a few steps and then was down on the pitch. Although Matan was writing on the ground at the opposite end of the pitch, referee Rosendo Mendoza allowed play to run for another 30 seconds or so before halting play to head to VAR.

Rooney was not impressed with Matan’s display. “I don’t know. I think it’s so slight, the contact. And I’ve played the game a long time. If you can take two steps after the contact. You’re staying on your feet. He’s conned the referee. He’s conned VAR. And fair play to him. I don’t blame him. That’s what strikers do.”

After VAR reviewed the play, Mendoza awarded the penalty to Columbus, and Lucas Zelarayán easily converted to open the scoring in the 39′. The frustration was palpable at Audi Field, a chorus of boos echoing throughout the stadium.

The second half didn’t improve the situation for the Black-and-Red. Almost immediately, Mohamed Farsi found Christian Ramírez in the box. With a quick shot, Ramírez doubled the Crew’s lead, slotting another ball past Tyler Miller in the 47′. Again, Rooney was skeptical. He felt Ramírez was offside.

For all the Black-and-Red supporters who were as frustrated as Rooney and the team, the manager had a message, “I think the support of the game was good. I think the fans obviously got a bit frustrated with the decisions. Obviously, when we’d seen the bottle come onto the field, no one wants to see that, but I think they were frustrated by the penalty which was given because I think it was on the big screen, and they’d seen it for themselves.”

Rooney continued with a chuckle, “Actually, it was the first time I’ve ever seen in all my time in football the referee gives a foul against the team, and fair play to Columbus. Their coach, and the players didn’t believe it was a foul and kicked the ball back to us. I’ve never seen that. So fair play to Columbus for that.”

D.C. United next faces CF Montréal in a must-watch match at Stade Saputo on April 15 at 7:30 pm ET.

Three Takeaways

  • Lewis O’Brien makes his debut. O’Brien played a full 90+ minutes against the Crew in his first MLS match. He told The District Press that this season he’s looking forward to “Just playing games. I mean, it was the main thing for me once I found out my situation… I looked straight to the MLS, and luckily, Wayne rang me and said that they wanted to get me over as fast as possible.”
  • Composure is key. While officiating was a pain point, the Black-and-Red were rattled several times during the match and allowed it to compromise their focus.
  • Today, we do not love VAR. Or officiating, for that matter. Based on our observations, we’re a bit disappointed that D.C. United didn’t get a fair shake against the Columbus Crew.

Box Score

MLS Regular Season – Game 7

D.C. United: 0

Columbus Crew: 2 Zelarayán 39′ (PK), Ramírez 47′


D.C. United: Tyler Miller, Jacob Greene (Mohanad Jeahze 62′), Donovan Pines, Steven Birnbaum, Victor Pálsson, Pedro Santos (Ruan 62′), Russell Canouse (Ted Ku-DiPietro 80′), Lewis O’Brien, Mateusz Klich, Taxi Fountas, Christian Benteke

Columbus Crew:Patrick Schulte, Milos Degenek, Gustavo Vallecilla (Philip Quinton 85′), Will Sands, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Aidan Morris, Alexandru Matan (Sean Zawadzki 85′), Mohamed Farsi, Lucas Zelarayán (Yaw Yeboah 85′), Christian Ramírez (Jacen Russell-Rowe 90’+1′)

Misconduct Summary

D.C. United: Canouse 45’+5′, Benteke 58′, Klich 81′

Columbus Crew: Zelarayán 45’+1′, Vallecilla 86′

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

BySarah Kallassy

Managing Editor

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Stunned Duck

The site now refuses to recognize my WordPress login, but we soldier onward…

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. We brought Wayne *bleep*ing Rooney back over from the UK, got him a raft of new and moderately expensive players to use, heard a lot of talk about improved mentality and a change in ways of doing business, and the result is… Bennyball without Benny?

  • A 4-4-2
  • with more than one guy playing out of position
  • poor spacing
  • inconsistent effort and movement
  • flailing attempts at a light press, devolving into packing the box for a low block arrangement
  • and tactically overwhelmed by a team with a plan and good coaching.

Just because the ref thought this was MLS circa 2007 doesn’t mean Wayne has to follow suit. I didn’t have much hope for this season amounting to anything, but I *was* hoping for better than this. smh

Stunned Duck

Oh, hey, but it figured out my account link anyway, otherwise it wouldn’t have gotten the image right. *shrugs* IT is fun.

Will Nelson

That’s what’s been happening to me the entire time since the switch.

Will Nelson

I would if I had your email. Keep in mind when I see the error in another tab I’m sitting on my WordPress account dashboard. I just submitted a support request myself. Here’s what the error says:

We couldn’t find your account. If you already have an account, make sure you have connected to

Will Nelson

Though I just managed to successfully log-in with my Google account.


What is Bennyball and why is it bad? You know is bad tactics? Losadaball where your team sprints itself into exhaustion and injury for nothing and the other team has already figured our your predictable shit anyway.

Stunned Duck

I thought I defined it pretty well in the bullets. But it’s mostly a tongue-in-cheek post, others below have described the problems in a more detailed way.


Thought Lewis OBrian had a good start. Unfortunately, he, like most new players, end up trying first organize the field, and then try to be the team. Which results in an injury in three weeks. The relationship between Beneke and Taxi seemed a bit one sided; a better balance might result in better results. Here’s hoping Losada does not get sacked this week and we catch Montreal on the bounce. Oh, and my sign-in is not working either, but that’s better than the beer and soda taps not working last night.

Last edited 8 months ago by Leftback19
David Rusk

Unlike last week (a suburban location in a restaurant) my MLS Apple reception in our hotel in the heart of Buenos Aires was perfect.

Would that the match were perfect!

Taxi’s grass cutter on an open goal that caught a retreating defender’s heel was the kind of bad luck we’ve been having.

But Taxi and Benteke have to start putting more away. I’ll bet that our expected goals was at least as high as Columbus’s.

Kerry Hess

I’m a bit baffled by the WordPress login. Clearly something about WordPress fixes itself as we can fortunately see your comments, but it shouldn’t be this hard.

I posted my trick a month ago, but it bears repeating if it solves the problem. If those of you who are having issues have already done this, and the issues persist, please let us know so the troubleshooting can continue.

For those having trouble logging into WordPress/Jetpack to comment here (stuck in a vicious loop of WordPress not finding your credentials), I also had this problem when we first started. The below steps have seemingly solved it:

Step 1: Log in using WordPress.
Step 2: On the Jetpack link asking you to connect with, click “Get help setting up Jetpack”
Step 3: Rather than filling out anything on the following page, go to the top right, select your account avatar, and select “Manage your sites”
Step 4: This should bring you to an approval page to link and accounts. Select approve.

At this point, you can log in normally on Step 1 and everything should hopefully work. I have not had the problem occur since doing the above, but this all is, admittedly, just anecdotal.


This squad is a mess. Rooney can complain about the ref, but in the end Columbus is better coached and a better assembled roster. While O’Brien is a tidy player, why did DCU get him for a 4 month rental? He plays the same position as Klich, Canouse and Palsson (and maybe Durkin as well). To keep Klich on the pitch, Rooney had him played wide on the left — Klich is not a wide midfield player. Rooney then compounds the felony by putting Santos on the right. Santos is sloooow and left footed, so he will invert as he moves towards the box. So, no width, no speed and Columbus is off to the races on the flanks. The fact that Ruan — a truly mediocre player — enlivened DCU’s play on the flanks shows how bad a decision Rooney’s opening lineup was.

Rooney intends to build from the back and play with the ball. So, in Match 6 DCU goes Route 1 to Benteke’s head. The continues last night as well. So is the squad not good enough or is Rooney unable to coach a successful position style offense?

All of this is strong evidence that Rooney is both poor at talent evaluation, lineup choices and the ability to coach a successful system. This squad has one win this season and that was the miracle finish at the home opener. Since then, it’s become progressively worse. BTW, Ben Olsen has 3 wins in Houston this year and the Dynamo beat the Galaxy 3-0 yesterday.

This will be a consecutive Spoon year. Rooney will be gone at the end of the season – if not sooner. Meanwhile Levien and Kaplan will continue to cash checks from real estate deals as this team becomes worse and more irrelevant in MLS. Last night I noticed that none of the folks that used to sit around me are at the matches this year. They have been replaced by newbies who buy one match tickets, or more likely they come as empty seats. BTW, I sit near midfield on the west side so these are great seats for viewing the match — but the longtime fans seem to have disappeared. I feel at times like the last of soon to be extinct species.


1) Give the man a whole season before saying he is a poor coach. I think that the team has been very much going in the right direction since the first game. We at least did that for the previous coach. He has had to rebuild a broken team from worse than scratch. M. Nancy inherited a very talented team he just needs to tweak.

2) The western conference is easier. That hasn’t always been the case and won’t always be he case. Just be happy that Coach Olsen is in the process of turning around a broken team. They will have their fits and starts too.

Bryan McEachern

We peaked in game one. Sorry, the results paint the picture. No a good product (despite the effort).

Talonesque #

I legitimately want to ask Rooney at this point, what’s the offensive side of this 4-4-2? I cannot see the plan. I also think we could stumble onto a plan if we played 2 of Fletcher, Hopkins, and TKD on the wings, at least then there’s some level of youthful energy and speed going forward (admittedly less so from Hopkins, but he’s still a very good distributor and crosser from the right). Klich and Santos on the wings was downright criminal.

Defensively, we seem to have settled into a rhythm, there is none going forward. Benteke could have finished, Taxi could have finished, but they weren’t getting consistent chances that they could sink their teeth into, and a random third attacker was joining them on most plays- that’s not enough support.

Crew are good enough to make the playoffs, probably, we are really good at not achieving results and points in the standings. We’re playing a defensive, high pressing 4-4-2 without much nuance that exposes our sweeper keeper and doesn’t know how to go forward. We start all our slowest players. What am I missing?

Bryan McEachern

You are missing professional soccer. It pains me, but its true. It is better than last year, but that was the abyss.

Matt Glad

Really starting to question Rooney’s coaching. The team has gotten objectively worse since the first game. This was the worst performance of the season in my eyes and Rooney spent his entire press conference complaining about the crap officials. Then he has the gall to say “we liked what we were doing in the first half” seriously? by the 25th minutes DC had 26 passes to the Crews 120. That’s pathetic in any game, let alone at home.

On top of that he continues to force square pegs into round holes. Why does it take 60 minutes for him to realize that a 4-4-2 needs actual wingers? After this performance and Rooney’s comments I’m honestly scared for what the rest of the season looks like.

Talonesque #

We’re in general agreement, and I’m sorry that’s the case.


Just for the record, let’s at least try for a run for the Open Cup. I’d rather have a repeat of 2013 over 2022.


The game plan was to absorb the pressure then send that speedy outside mid into the flank space to open them up. Look at the wins against Atlanta in 2018 and 2019 for exhibits A and B for how to do it.

The team was doing just that. Columbus had no chances despite the passing and possession. #20 went down out of frustration just hoping to bait the referee since he wasn’t creating anything against an organized defense.

That is what Coach Rooney meant. How about thinking about how to actually play against a press rather than looking at worthless stats that are only there to get clicks to read the mental midgets who contribute to

Coach Rooney was right. Doesn’t mean anything now but give a first year coach a chance to rebuild a team that was an historic disaster in league history.

I hated Losadaball but gave it a chance and was still open to letting him finish year 2 before the abusive training methods come out.

Matt Glad

If the plan was to hit on the counter why was there not a single player with pace on the field? The plan was to defend defend defend and hope for one of the DPs to create magic. That is a compete 180 from what Rooney was preaching all preseason and throughout this awful start.

I’m always willing to give new coaches a chance, but they also need to show that the team is improving week to week. DC has gotten worse and worse as the weeks have gone on. There’s no tactics or semblance of a game plan. Possession and passes ARE an important stat of 1) you’re at home and 2) you’re a team that has been talking about controlling the ball all year. Possession doesn’t matter to teams like Philly because when they get the ball they are absolutely lethal. DC looks clueless.


“Fountas has been honing in on the clinical finishes”

No evidence of that. His finishing was miserable.

Also, Rooney thinks Ramirez was offside? Not even close. Not even on the original ball, which he didn’t even play. I’m mystified that there’s any complaint there. The first PK though was crap call, but as Rooney said, our guys could have played for days and not scored..

I’m surprised that people thought O’Brien looked tidy. He made a nice lead pass for Benteke to run onto just before the PK review, but otherwise, I thought he was a turnover machine. Granted, it might be much to expect him to be sharp without much practice, but I didn’t see what others seemed to have seen. I hope and expect we’ll see better. I hope we can say the same about Benteke and Fountas. Maybe their timing was off because they were trying to too hard

Last edited 8 months ago by Fischy
Talonesque #

I think Fountas will eventually start scoring again, but he’s maybe suffering from not being the solo “main thing” anymore

Talonesque #

For sure, the come back from injury is the main thing, but I am positing a possible contributing factor- he really hasn’t had a lot of games with Benteke. I’m not saying he’s a selfish player, it’s just that attacking stars enjoy being the point of build up.


Thank you for this reasonable point.

Talonesque #

Think O’Brien will be revealed to be a damn good championship level player, Premier League status is a bit overblown, I feel. It seems like he’s backup to Klich, but shouldn’t partner with Klich, and definitely shouldn’t push him to the wing


There is this from Pablo on Twitter. After this, he does not receive the ball but interferes with the defender (Greene). It’s close but he looks to be offside in this view. It definitely should have been checked. VAR was not up to par in this game.

(6) Pablo Iglesias Maurer on Twitter: “Rooney also pointed out to me that Columbus’ 2nd goal shouldn’t have counted – goalscorer was in an offside position at the onset of the play, then interferes with Greene, who ends up getting burned by Farsi on the goal. Convoluted, but he’s right and it should’ve been VAR’ed.” / Twitter


Excellent follow-up. I watched the video and thought “nah, Rooney’s wrong”–gulp. I’m eating my words.


Tip of the hat to you for the acknowledgment.


I liked the write up mentioning a must win game in Montreal. Hallelujah! I hope the coach and players feel the same and play accordingly.


Ok, I’m finally cool enough to talk about this one.

This is the most mad I’ve been about a DC United game since the 2016 playoff loss where the Montreal was doing a high press under Jesse Marsch and DC United’s outside mids just started dribbling around the press so Montreal started hacking them out of frustration and the ref barely made any calls and gave no persistent infringement or tactical foul call so ended up aiding the tactical fouling.

You all know that I usually defend referees, having been one myself. This referee and the Video AR need to go back to the minors. I hope they failed their assessment but we will probably see them next game any way because most assessors never actually refereed as high as the game they assessed so they look at shit like mechanics and positioning and selling calls rather than tactical awareness (hence why Ted Unkel did not get invited to the World Cup despite being on the FIFA referee panel)

It’s rare but they actually gave this one to Columbus. DC United was weathering the pressure and starting to figure out how to break out and get chances before that gross abuse of VAR. That was the ultimate touch foul. The original no call was the right one. Yellow #20 only went down after he ran out of space and he was losing the ball. It was a classic dive. In real time, you could reasonably do a no call and sell that he just lost his balance as he ran out of space. The Video AR could have picked up the dive and the card but should have just let it go as there was no clear and obvious error.

Incident #2 was the Fountas non-PK. If losing the race to the ball then sweeping through the opponent’s legs isn’t a foul, then nothing is a foul. Nothing from the Video AR.

Team #2 you just did wrong now gets a no-call on an obvious penalty. Team #1 now knows they got you. Team 1 one starts teeing off on Team #2. Team 1 starts diving more. Team 1 goes in harder on headers with elbows and doesn’t pull out against a center back on a challenge you had no chance of winning. (Yellow #8 should have had A&M’s least a yellow for head butting Pines when he had no chance of winning it. There is no excuse except you wanted to send Pines a message and/or take him out of the game so you can win headers that he normally sweeps out) Team 1 starts hacking star forward and baits him into a retaliation card. Team 1 gets to put another man back and try to catch Team 2 out for a quick counter.

Just awful and league does not care because DC United was robbed in front of their home fans rather than LAFC or Atlanta or the newest expansion darling.

On the positive side, DC United did ok absorbing the pressure before the refs gifted Columbus that goal. It’s clear in hindsight that the game plan was to absorb the pressure then send in that fast new outside mid to run at tired defenders into the wide space that a press naturally gives up. #17 was also a good signing. He has quality and I like how he covers ground like a d-mid and controls the ball like an attacking center mid.

I liked the fight and how they kept at it despite the bullshit refereeing. There is a huge pulse and the season is far from over. Lots of room to gel and lots of quality on the field.


You did a tremendous job explaining in detail from a referees perspective. This was clear and I think pretty reasonable (and I’m not just saying that b/c I’m a DCU fan). When I coached, I always told my team that a referee might make 10 mistakes when they have a bad game but the players make hundreds–between poor decisions and technical inadequacies, that players have the ability to decide every game. That said, the Referring, especially the VAR really did mismanage the game, leading to not just bad calls or no-calls but then affecting how the game played out.


I’ll keep going from the referee’s perspective…

When you move from a level 8 (doing little kids and rec games) to level 7 (doing big kids travel teams and high level amateurs) then to level 6 (doing mostly top level amateurs), the teacher at the clinic hammers in “protect stars and punish enforcers.”

I had a game once where I did a U17 boys premier travel teams and was assessed. I failed because I got an assessor who actually knew his stuff. It was because I carded an attacking center mid for a retaliation foul. He had been fouled multiple times but was skilled enough to play through it. I called advantage correctly but never came back and carded the opposing defensive center mid for persistent infringement. Somewhere in the second half, the kid had enough and hacked his enforcer after the play. He knew the card was coming but asked about all the fouls he played through. I didn’t get it at the time but learned from it.

Anyway, Benteke is good, despite what some of the crankiest and least informed and reasonable DC United fans may say when whining. The Columbus center back knew that too as was frustrated they could not cut off the outlets in midfield or the service in the box. The center backs started throwing elbow and jabbing forearms into Benteke since they couldn’t beat him to the ball because he is GOOD.

Anyway, Benteke had enough that last time when Nagbe elbowed him in the ribs in the box. That is where the hack came from.

Nagbe is an enforcer. He is a talented player too but he is an enforcer. Part of his job is to frustrate stars. If you punish a star after you let the enforcer hack and jab him, you have failed. That’s even more true in the pros where the fans are paying to see Benteke score goals, not to see Nagbe jab a star. In that case, you just did Nagbe’s job for him by saying he can whack the star with impunity and the star will get no justice or protection from you.

Next, Canouse is an enforcer for DC United. You want to card him the first time he does an unsafe tackle or a tactical foul, especially on an opponent’s star playmaker. In the pros, the enforcers know they play a little bit differently on a yellow vs. not on a yellow. An enforcer is very careful about their yellow card infringements as they know they only get one before they are tactically hamstrung.

Then as a referee, you don’t want to give an enforcer a nit picky card for kicking the ball away when his team is down and he’s wasting his own time. Especially when it is plausible that he was already in motion and nobody in that field perceived it as a demonstration of dissent. (Kicking the ball away is about the dissent, not the act of kicking the ball; it’s about trying to embarrass the referee just as taking a jersey off is a kit taunting not the jersey itself) You lose the players and you have upset the tactical balance as Nagbe now has no card yet Canouse does for something he didn’t deserve. Now Nagbe can tee off on Benteke and Fountas since he doesn’t have a card while Canouse has to back off #10 and #20 because he is in a card he didn’t earn.


Great stuff.

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