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.
- 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.
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′)
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