COLUMBUS – Eddie Gaven made a dramatic return from nearly two months on the injured list to score in the 60th minute as the Crew rallied, then held on to defeat D.C. United 2-1 on Sunday to snap a six-game winless streak and regain second place in the chaotic Eastern Conference.
Gaven had been out since suffering a bruised bone on his right leg Aug. 5 at Colorado, but the tireless midfielder put in a diving header from 12 yards thanks to a rare foray upfield by defender Sebastian Miranda.
The defender took a pass from Danny O’Rourke on the right flank and made a move around Santino Quaranta. Miranda usually pulls up before making a cross, but this time he went to the edge of the penalty area sent the ball to a cutting Gaven to cap the comeback.
Earlier, D.C. defender Daniel Woolard scored for both teams.
The first half was epitomized by a pair of long free kicks - one to each side – three minutes apart.
D.C. United scored on theirs in the 37th minute while the Crew missed with a chance for the equalizer.
Woolard put D.C. ahead after Dwayne De Rosario drew a foul from Kevin Burns near the right sideline. De Rosario was 40 yards from goal when he laced the restart toward the middle of the box, where former D.C. defender Julius James let Woolard run through unmarked for the classy redirect with his left foot.
Columbus pressed on and when Clyde Simms was booked for challenging Emmanuel Ekpo in the 40th minute the Crew had a restart from about same distance as the D.C. try, but from the left side.
Miranda got the ball to the top of the penalty area where James’ header popped straight up and the threat was extinguished.
But in a much-improved second half from both teams, Columbus found the leveler in the 48th minute. Shaun Francis took an ambitious shot from distance that met a gaggle of legs at the top of the penalty area. Crew forward Andres Mendoza spun and fired on goal, but Woolard was there to block the strike only to see the carom squib past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Both teams pushed for the second with the Crew eventually getting it on Gaven’s header, but United hardly let the foot off the gas during the last half hour.
Their best chances fell to Andy Najar near the death. First the livewire winger drove a 30-yard strike that Crew ‘keeper Will Hesmer had to save spectacularly in the 84th minute. The in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Najar peppered a 12-yard strike that hit the cross and denied the visitors the tying goal.
Crew centerback Chad Marshall was a late scratch because of a left ankle sprain that had been bothering him although he did warm up and midfielder Robbie Rogers (hamstring) did not play.
D.C. was without suspended defenders Brandon McDonald (suspension) and Ethan White (knee sprain).
The Crew (12-12-8, 44 points), who ended a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) with the win, are idle until playing at New England on Oct. 15. They moved past Houston and Philadelphia into second place in the Eastern Conference, a point back of Sporting Kansas City.
D.C. United (9-10-11, 38) had their playoff hopes dampened with the loss. They trail New York by two points for the final spot, but have a game in hand on the Red Bulls.
United are next at Vancouver on Oct. 12.
DC – Daniel Woolard 1 (De Rosario 12) 37
CLB – Own goal (Daniel Woolard) 48
CLB – Eddie Gaven 5 (Sebastian Miranda 2) 60
DC – Clyde Simms (caution – reckless tackle) 40
DC – Marc Burch (caution: tactical foul) 63
D.C. United – Bill Hamid – Chris Korb, Daniel Woolard, Perry Kitchen, Marc Burch – Andy Najar, Clyde Simms (Josh Wolff 75), Dwayne De Rosario (capt.), Santana Quaranta – Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya (Stephen King, 55)
Substitutes not used: Devon McTavish, Austin Da Luz, Kurt Morsink, Blake Brettschneider, Joe Willis.
COLUMBUS – William Hesmer – Sebastian Miranda, Julius James, Shaun Francis (Rich Balchan 64), Danny O’Rourke – Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka ( Bernardo Anor 77) – Andres Mendoza, Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann 67).
Substitutes not used: Andy Gruenebaum, Cole Grossman, Josh Gardner, Jeff Cunningham
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: -Fabio Tovar; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Juan Guzman
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-57-degrees