The Crew got a goal from Chris Birchall early in the second half and a little luck at the end to snap a two-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on Saturday before 17,150 fans at Crew Stadium.
D.C. defender Chris Korb hit the left post in the 88th minute with a strike from 18 yards to deny United (10-7-3, 33 points) the equalizer as they lost a second straight match.
Columbus (7-7-4, 25) had lost three of their previous four, and looked unlikely to get a win in this one until Birchall, playing his sixth game since signing in May, scored his first goal as a member of the Crew, a minute after the halftime break. It was the second career goal in MLS for the Trinidadian international, who spent three previous seasons with the LA Galaxy.
Josh Williams started the play out of the back with a pass to Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rican forward, making only is second appearance, held off a challenge and slipped the ball through to Birchall off a well-timed run.
Birchall dribbled into the left side of the box and connected on a low left-footed strike from 10 yards that beat goalie Joe Willis, playing for the suspended Bill Hamid.
The Crew momentarily thought they had the lead just before the break, but a controversial offside call nullified the first career goal for Williams in the 44th minute. Williams had a goal disallowed earlier this season for the second time this season and this one couldn’t have been closer. Replays showed he was likely even with D.C. defender Brandon McDonald when Justin Meram struck a free kick from 40 yards. Williams snapped a header but his effort was voided by the referee assistant’s flag.
The play capped an aggressive opening 45 minutes for the Crew led mainly by the return of midfielder Dilly Duka. His combination play with Eddie Gaven and Meram kept the pressure on United.
However, Dwayne De Rosario and United picked things up in the second half and wound up dominating in nearly every statistical category. They outshot the Crew 18-12, and outpossessed the home side 64.4% to 35.6%.
They nearly got something for their efforts just four minutes after Birchall’s goal. Nick DeLeon forced Andy Gruenebaum into leaving a juicy rebound of his 18-yard shot. De Rosario pounced and put the ball away but was called for offside. Replays showed it was the right call though because the ball deflected off a Crew defender, it seems more controversial than it deserved.
A subplot of the match was D.C. coach not picking Gruenebaum for the All-Star team that faces Chelsea on Wednesday.
Gruenebaum had three saves to post his seventh shutout of the season. None of Gruenebaum’s saves were as important as the punch away he made after an ill-advised clearance by teammate Sebastian Miranda in the 76th minute that presented Pontius with a wide-open goal.
After that, with a little help from the post on Korb’s shot, the Crew had three points.
The Crew next host English club Stoke City in a friendly on Tuesday before traveling to Sporting Kansas City on July 28.
D.C.’s next MLS game is at home vs. the Crew on Aug. 4. In the interim they play Paris Saint-German as part of the Herbalife World Football Challenge on July 28 in RFK Stadium.
Lineups and boxscore (MLSsoccer.com)
Opta Chalkboard (MLSsoccer.com)