LANDOVER, Md., June 7, 2014 — Maybe it was the unfamiliarity of FedExField and being away from RFK Stadium, but D.C. United could only hold the depleted Columbus Crew to a scoreless tie on Saturday in a drab game in Landover, Md.
Fabian Espindola missed a penalty kick deep into stoppage time denying United the chance to go top of the Eastern Conference. Espindola, who has been United’s best player all season, tried to fake Crew goalie Steve Clark but the goalie stood his ground and the striker’s weak shot went into Clark’s arms.
This was United’s first league home game ever played away from RFK and the second game of a double-header following Spain’s 2-0 win over El Salvador before over 53,267.
Some of the players said the field was dry and the grass too long.
“It was slow and thick,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “It’s not built for soccer. It was built for big boys who run around and tackle each other. We thought it was a little slow but both teams had to deal with it. It didn’t make for the most attractive soccer, but we had our looks.”
The game lacked the atmosphere of a United home match at RFK even though a large crowd remained after the Spain game. United’s supporters behind one off the goals did their best to inspire on their team.
Eddie Johnson, United’s Designated Player, again failed to find his form. The striker had a great chance to give United the lead on the half-hour mark but he completely miss-kicked Davy Arnaud’s delicate chip.
Luis Silva came close with an early free kick and Nick DeLeon, another player seeking to find his form, should have done better on a chance in the 39th minute. Just before the break Chris Rolfe had a shot go wide. Johnson wasted a good pass from Silva in the 50th minute and eight minutes later left the field after rolling his ankle and was replaced by Conor Doyle.
Bill Hamid came up with a huge save stopping Bernardo Anor’s low shot in the 55th minute. Hamid could only get his hand on the ball and Ethan Finlay put the rebound over the bar.
With seven minutes left on the clock, Hamid again saved United, stopping Adam Bedell’s shot that looked certain to hit the net.
Substitute Jared Jeffrey came up with a fine effort in injury time and could have won the game for United but Crew goalie Clark made a good.
Clark then came up big stopping Espindola’s PK with seconds left on the clock.
“I give the goalkeeper credit,” Olsen said. “A lot of guys go left or right but he stayed right in the middle. It’s a little disappointing in the end not to get points out of the PK late like that, but Fabi’s been the man for us this year so he certainly can take the next one.”
The Player Ratings
Bill Hamid ( 7 ) – Clearly United’s best player, producing key saves to preserve the tie.
Sean Franklin (6) – Good runs on the right-flank and some good tracking back.
Bobby Boswell (6.5 ) – Good defending at keeping Jairo Arrieta at bay.
Steve Birnbaum (6.5 ) – Had a chance late in the game. He looked comfortable and he was not afraid to go forward. Ben Olsen praised his performance.
Cristian Fernandez (5.5) – Not his best game and he didn’t get to make many of his trademark crosses.
Nick DeLeon (5.5 ) – Worked hard and ran a lot but could have done better on a number of chances..
Davy Arnaud (6 ) – Made a number of good runs and worked hard.
Luis Silva (5.5 ) – Came close with a free kick but still looking to find his form. Looked a little tired.
Chris Rolfe (6) – Some neat switch-of-play crosses. Saw a good chance go wide.
Fabian Espindola (5.5) – Not his best game. He should have done better with the PK.
Eddie Johnson (5) – Played a nice ball to Espindola. Wasted a good chance in the 30th minute.
Lewis Neal (6 ) – Made a difference when he came on and lofted a few dangerous balls into the box.
Connor Doyle (6) – Set up a nice shot for Jeffrey late in the game.
Jared Jeffrey (6) – Came up with a great chance late in the game.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email [email protected]