While Andy Gruenebaum has rightly received plaudits in posting the fourth-best goals-against average in MLS, he has always credited his teammates for his success.
On Saturday at RFK Stadium, it was a team performance and some unlucky bounces that led to D.C. United’s Chris Pontius scoring off a scramble that never should have happened in the 49th minute of an eventual 1-0 D.C. victory.
“It’s unfortunate,” Crew midfielder Dilly Duka told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “Andy came up big all night and kept us in the game.”
HIGHLIGHTS: D.C. United 1, Columbus 0
The play started with Nick DeLeon beating left back Josh Williams (above left) and angling toward the end line as he entered the penalty area. Williams recovered and forced DeLeon to cut back as the Crew appeared to have snuffed a scoring opportunity.
Columbus midfielder Milovan Mirosevic keyed on DeLeon, but instead of going for the ball, he drew back as if trying not to commit a foul and did not make a challenge. That mistake allowed DeLeon to reverse course, dribble back toward the goal before launching a ball through the box.
His pass went off of Crew center back Chad Marshall, who was unable to corral the rolling ball.
“The ball battered around between my legs,” Marshall told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “I couldn’t get a clean touch on it. Andy came out a little bit and the ball squirted off his body and [Pontius] puts it in.”
That was enough to end the Crew’s modest two-game winning that began with a 1-0 home victory vs. D.C. United on July 21.
“It was a pretty good play, but we should have stopped them before they reached the box,” Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha told reporters of the goal.
While the Crew responded with a flurry of activity around the D.C. net late in the match, they were unable to find the finishing touch like United did.
“We had two or three chances a yard or two away from goal that we couldn’t put away,” Duka said.