Columbus Crew SC faced an ancient rival with both teams on the rise. D.C. United has started the season strong while Columbus was picked as a Cup contender in the East. It's been a long time since both teams were good, unfortunately the result resembled those late 1990's games as Crew SC fell 2-0.
D.C. United would absorb the early pressure from the visitors, patiently waiting to counter. They would get their chance on a Crew SC corner in the 15th minute. Justin Meram lost the 50/50 battle to corral a cleared corner. Chris Rolfe would break into space with pace and draw in the scrambling rear guard. He slipped a pass to Fabian Espindola who calmly finished his breakaway to give the home team the lead.
Columbus would probe for an equalizer, but D.C. was able to push the Crew SC attack wide and rebuff the sputtering attack and maintain their 1-0 advantage as they approach halftime. The visitors could only muster a long range shot with a couple others blocked by the well drilled United defense.
Crew SC would again suffer the little mistakes that ended up costing them big. The home side did earn a corner in the 41st minute that Steve Clark struggled to parry away. The low driven service fell to Sean Franklin and was easily redirected to extend the lead to 2-0 just before halftime.
Facing a two goal deficit, Gregg Berhalter made wholesale changes at halftime. Justin Meram and Waylon Francis were lifted for Chris Klute and Kristinn Steindórsson. Columbus would look a little sharper, but they failed to turn their share of possession into dangerous chances. Crew SC wouldn't record a shot on goal until the 71st minute and they'd only test Hamid a total of three times.
The failure to create many shots likely stemmed from their buildup play. Crew SC would send in 42 crosses on the evening. Hamid and his two aerially dominant central defenders, Kofi Opare and Bobby Boswell cleaned up these efforts. Holding a two goal lead, D.C. was content to stay deep and compact and let Columbus send in hopeful passes that were easily cleared.
That dominance didn't show up in the box score. Crew SC outshot D.C. 14 to 10, had more passes, won more duels and tackles, and of course had more possession. That statistical dominance didn't turn into chances.
This was reminiscent of 2014, a Crew SC team focused on one idea and the opposition easily parrying those efforts. Columbus couldn't come up with a Plan B. With a chance to show they measured up to the top of the east, they were found wanting. They won't have to wait long as the Seattle Sounders come to MAPFRE Stadium next Saturday.