Berhalter Gets First Win as Columbus Downs D.C. United 3-0
The Columbus Crew gave their new head coach Gregg Berhalter a welcome surprise on Saturday night: a 3-0 victory over D.C. United in Washington D.C.
While the score may indicate that this was a blowout, it was actually a pretty even match. Both clubs had long stretches of possession and each had a handful of quality goal-scoring opportunities.
In particular, the first fifteen minutes of the match saw each team nearly take the lead. In the third minute, D.C. United defender Christian Fernandez hit a laser of a shot outside of the 18 yard box that nearly caught Columbus Crew goalkeeper Steve Clarke napping. Clarke, however, was able to make a fingertip save that lobbed the ball over the crossbar. The Crew responded in the ninth minute when forward Bernardo Anor hit a shot that deflected off of United defender Bobby Boswell and rolled around in the box until United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was able to secure it.
Despite both teams playing on relatively the same level, the Crew were able to take the lead in the nineteenth minute when forward Jairo Arrieta finished off a cross by defender Josh Williams and buried it past Hamid. Leading up the play, the Crew had been making small passes along their back-line while making incremental progress at changing the field. United's defense then began to focus on the center part of the field which gave Williams room to run down the right side and cross the ball into Arrieta. This was a tactic that the Crew implemented throughout the entire ninety minutes on both the left and right side of the pitch.
United nearly responded in the twenty-first minute when Luis Silva's free kick found Fernandez wide open in the box. Fernandez, however, was unable to get a shot off as the Columbus defense immediately swarmed on him and blocked his window. Many of United's best chances during the match came from set pieces, including midfielder Nick De Leon heading a ball from a corner kick just over the cross-bar in the twenty-second minute.
Before D.C. could tie the match, Columbus would score yet again this time off of a penalty kick by midfielder Federico Higuain. Columbus was awarded the shot after United midfielder Perry Kitchen pulled down Crew defender Michael Parkhurst. This was a very physical match with 7 yellow cards and 27 fouls throughout the full ninety minutes.
Though they were down 2-0, United continued to press on the attack. Forward Fabian Espindola was able to make several long runs along the left flank and deliver crosses into fellow forward Eddie Johnson. However, Johnson was unable to finish any of his opportunities, either missing the goal or having it saved by Clarke.
As the second half wore on, the Crew defense began to take over the match. While United was getting the ball into Columbus' defensive third, the Crew's backline of Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis, and Captain Michael Parkhurst began intercepting any passes intended for a United player. The club also used their height advantage to clear out any dangerous crosses that came into the box. United's best opportunity came in the fifty-second minute when midfielder Luis Silva was able to thread a pass into Espindola that narrowly caught him offsides.
What really put United out of the match in the second half though were the passes between Parkhurst and Higuain. For two players that have only played a handful of preseason matches together their chemistry on the pitch made it seem that they had played together for years. Each time United was able to go on the attack, the Crew defense was able to stop their advances get the ball to Parkhurst who then was able to make a long pass into Higuain across the field. The Crew were able to move the ball North and South freely in the dying minutes of the match. This is exactly how the last goal of the match was set up as midfielder Ryan Meara delivered cross into the United box that Higuain was able to hit with inside of his right foot past Hamid.
With Higuain's goal in the eighty-ninth minute the Crew were able to secure a very impressive first victory of the season. For a club that had a road record of 5-2-10 (W-D-L) last season it is an important step in being able to get points in difficult situations. The club also continues their recent success over D.C. United, having won now their last three matches against their Eastern Conference rival.
Meanwhile for D.C. United the club will continue to look for progress as all of their new pieces brought in during the offseason gel. The club has not won a match in the regular season dating back to August 3rd of 2013 when they defeated the Montreal Impact 3-1. They have also only scored two goals in their last five regular season matches.
Both clubs will be off next week and will play their next matches on Saturday March the 22nd when D.C. United will face Toronto F.C. on the road and Columbus will play host to the Philadelphia Union.
COLUMBUS CREW: Steve Clark, Josh Williams, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis (Tyson Wahl 93',) Hector Jimenez, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Bernardo Anor (Justin Mearam 73',) Jairo Arrieta (Adam Bedell 87',) and Federico Higuain.
Goals: Arrieta (18',) and Higuain (PEN 27', 90'.)
Yellow Cards: Tchani(39',) Trapp(43',) Francis(76',) and Higuain (63'.)
D.C. UNITED: Bill Hamid, Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke (Kyle Porter 82',) Christian Fernandez, Davy Arnaud (Conor Doyle 73',) Luis Silva, Nick De Leon (Lewis Neal 63',) Perry Kitchen, Fabian Espindola, and Eddie Johnson,.
Yellow Cards: Neal (67')
MATCH ATTENDANCE: 13,840
Photo credit: Paul Frederiksen/USA Today
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