Late Goal Leads to 1-1 Draw Between D.C. United and Columbus Crew SC

10-man Columbus Crew SC and DC United fought to a 1-1 draw Saturday following an 89th minute goal from Fabian Espindola.

“It’s tough, we’re not happy,” Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We’re very disappointed.  I think the effort that the guys put in was enough to win the game.”

Crew SC gained a 1-0 advantage in the second half off an Ola Kamara tap-in from close range, but the momentum shifted when Harrison Afful was given a red card for his challenge on Marcelo Sarvas in the 74th minute.

Crew SC responded to the sending off with a pair of defensive substitutions in the aftermath of the red card. Versatile wingback/midfielder Hector Jimenez stepped into Afful’s right back role, replacing Mohammed Saied, and Chad Barson came on for Justin Meram, with Jimenez moving into Meram’s winger position and Barson going in at right back.

Despite going down to ten men, both Berhalter and captain Michael Parkhurst feeling comfortable following the red card.

“They brought on a couple of strikers and tried to get the ball in the box,” Parkhurst said. “But I thought we were doing a good job of keeping the ball in front of us (and) limiting their chances.”

“It’s too bad the game was changed with that moment,” Berhalter said on the red card. “But it was and we had to deal with it and I think we dealt with it pretty well, but on one instance we didn’t and we paid for it.”

That “one instance” came by way of Fabian Espindola in the 89th minute.  Following what Parkhurst called an “unfortunate bounce” off the head of Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp, the ball fell right to Espindola who turned and fired a shot into the bottom right past a diving Steve Clark.

Ethan Finlay was able to dribble a ball into the box in stoppage time, but eventually the chance fizzled out. Waylon Francis also had a chance at the top of the box, but his shot was blocked. The match would finish with the 1-1 scoreline.

The draw is Crew SC’s fourth straight home draw, and extends the clubs winless streak to seven games in league play.

“Even though this hasn’t been the best season for us, (the players) are fighting for each other,” Berhalter said. “If you can maintain that belief, that spirit and that teamwork over 34 games, we have the quality to get out of this. That’s going to be the challenge for this group, and we’re going to see, time’s going to tell.”

Despite the result, Ola Kamara remains in tremendous form.

Kamara’s 64th minute goal gives him nine goals in 13 appearances and nine starts for the season. His tally puts him tied for third in the Golden Boot race. Kamara has the fewest appearances of any of the top 10 players in MLSsoccer.com’s Golden Boot standings and is tied for the fewest starts of any of the top 20 goal scorers with Robbie Keane, who has six goals on the year and is the 20th player in the Golden Boot rankings.

D.C. United plays Toronto FC in Toronto on Saturday, July 23rd at 7:30, and Crew SC also returns to action next Saturday where they will take on Orlando City SC in the third and final match of the home stand. D.C. United’s record moves to 5-7-7 while Columbus Crew SC goes to 3-9-7.