COLUMBUS, Ohio – After trailing for the majority of the match thanks to an early Fabian Espindola goal, the Columbus Crew found more late-game heroics to earn a 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Saturday, this time from Héctor Jiménez.
United snagged the game's first goal against the run of play in the 31st minute, when an uncharacteristically poor first touch from Federico Higuaín gave Nick DeLeon a breakaway behind the Crew midfield. DeLeon found a streaking Espindola to his left, who fired a high shot past Steve Clark.
Despite ending the half with 63 percent of possession and the advantage in shots, corner kicks and passing, the Crew showed little venom in the final third, and couldn't find a goal as D.C. seemed content to drop their ranks into defense and defend their lead on the road.
Espindola nearly doubled United's lead in the 48th minute, when Chris Rolfe found the forward on a two-on-one breakaway. Espindola's first touch failed him, and the ball got caught under his foot just outside the six-yard box, allowing the Crew to escape the danger.
The Crew thought they had earned a penalty in the 56th minute when it seemed that Sean Franklin slid into Jimenez inside the box just after he struck a shot wide. Jiménez crumpled, and the Columbus players appealed for a penalty, but referee Juan Guzman disagreed.
Columbus tried to add firepower in the 63rd minute, introducing forward Jairo Arrieta and attack-minded midfielder Justin Meram to replace Dominic Oduro and defender Waylon Francis. Meram's introduction immediately opened up proceedings, stretching the often-narrow match.
The game's controversy came to a head in the 71st minute when Columbus defender Giancarlo Gonzalez pulled down Eddie Johnson just outside the Crew box when he seemed to be the last defender between Johnson and the goal.
As Guzman was deciding Gonzalez's punishment, players from each team began arguing over where the ball would be placed, and a spat between Bernardo Añor and Espindola escalated as nearly every player on the pitch shoved and exchanged words.
The clear foul and heated exchange afterward only resulted in a yellow for Gonzalez's tackle, but the exchange set the stage for a chippy finish to a match that saw players from both sides fuming.
In the 81st minute, Añor transgressed again, sliding with both feet into a rash challenge on Perry Kitchen. Guzman finally reached for his red card and sent the Venezuelan off immediately, forcing the Crew to play with ten men for the remainder of the match.
But against the odds, the Crew snatched another dramatic late-game goal when Jiménez beat Andrew Dykstra with a curling shot in the 90th minute.
The goal was set up by Wil Trapp, who tracked Espindola down after 40 yards, tackled the forward and pinged a perfectly-placed diagonal ball to Jimenez. The winger took a touch inside and bent a gorgeous shot around Dykstra and into the side netting, securing the dramatic draw for the Crew.
Columbus (3-2-1) host the New York Red Bulls next Saturday, while D.C. (2-3-1) host FC Dallas.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Fabian Espindola||Bagged one goal and should've had another, but equally impressive was his movement, defensive work and game management.|
|2||Perry Kitchen||Game in, game out, he's simply relentless in midfield for United. Gobbled up countless 50/50 balls and chopped up the Crew's rhythm.|
Worked hard without much reward all game, including a bad miss in front of goal, but his clutch late finish more than made up for it .