The Columbus Crew fell on the road once again with a 1-0 loss at Audi Field to D.C. United on Wednesday evening. Julian Gressel scored the lone goal for United in the first half in another flat offensive performance from the Black & Gold away from MAPFRE Stadium.
Columbus had more rotation in the team’s starting 11 with Chris Cadden and Waylon Francis coming in the fullback slots for Harrison Afful and Milton Valenzuela. Fatai Alashe and Sebastian Berhalter returned to the starting lineup in midfield while Caleb Porter made a winger line change with Luis Diaz and Youness Mokhtar stepping in for Derrick Etienne Jr. and Emmanuel Boateng.
United started the game with early momentum, taking advantage of poor Crew passes to move up the field. D.C. wasn’t able to get many clear cut chances other than through earned set pieces.
The Crew’s first good chance came in the 14th minute after Diaz used his speed to dart in between two United defenders to force a foul just outside the 18-yard box. Pedro Santos tried to curl his left-footed free kick to the near post only to be stopped by the wall.
Columbus had another great opportunity off a set piece eight minutes later following some great buildup play from Cadden and Santos that helped force a corner. Santos whipped the ball into the six-yard box where Jonathan Mensah’s uncontested header was block off the line by Junior Moreno.
Out of nowhere in the 32nd minute, United held possession in the Black & Gold’s half and got the opening goal of the game. Yamil Asad put a cross in from the near side that found Gressel 12 yards from goal. The winger’s shot with three Columbus defenders in front and the effort deflected off of Aboubacar Keita’s foot and into the net for Gressel’s second goal of 2020.
Columbus had little to no response in the last 10-plus minutes of the second half and went into the tunnel on the road without a lead for the seventh time in the 2020 season.
The first 10 minutes of the second half had little action from either team. Diaz got off a hard shot in the 55th minute from outside the penalty box that flew above the bar. Immediately after that, Porter brought in Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan for Sebastian Berhalter and Youness Mokhtar.
Columbus spent much of the middle of the second half defending after the two substitutions with very little possession and very frew opportunities to get off shots. The team woke up in the 72nd minute with some great build-up play from the back as Cadden ran down the right side and crossed to Krisztian Nemeth. The forward sprung up for a header that just went over the bar.
D.C. sat back and defended the team’s 1-0 lead for the last 20 minutes and the Crew could not get a clear shot on target. Even with Emmanuel Boateng and Jordan Hamilton entering into the game for midfielder Fatai Alashe and defender Francis, Columbus couldn’t get the equalizer and fell on the road once again.
Once again for the Crew, one costly possession of poor defending cost the team more possible points on the road. Similar to the 3-1 loss to Toronto FC, the Black & Gold didn’t track a runner coming from the top of the penalty box as Gressel was left free for an open shot. Furthermore, Alashe halted to track back on Asad on his run down the wing to get the cross.
Defensive lapses have become more common for the Black & Gold after their historic defensive start. These will need to get cleaned up fast if there is any chance of this team having a successful MLS Cup playoff run.
Short attacking spurts
Both teams only had one shot on target, so neither side developed much offensively. Columbus did have a couple of spurts of good, quick build-up that led to decent space for chances. The right-hand side was utilized for all 90 minutes with Cadden and Diaz sprinting down the wing and peppering in fast crosses.
Alas, it did not yield much.
Columbus has now lost three of the team’s last five matches and stands at 10-5-5 on the season with 35 points. The Crew still remains in third place in the Eastern Conference but after wins from the Philadelphia Union, Orlando City and New York City FC, this side is now level on points with Orlando for that third-place spot and are further from a top-two seed.
The Crew returns to Columbus for a nationally televised home match on Sunday against the first-place Union at 3:30 p.m. ET to start November as the clocks turn back an hour.