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Drilling down on: at Columbus 1, D.C. United 0

DC United v Columbus Crew

COLUMBUS, OH - JULY 21: Chris Birchall #8 of the Columbus Crew battles for the ball during the game against the D.C. United at Columbus Crew Stadium on July 21, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. The Crew defeated United 1-0. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

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Man of the Match: In the first half, Jairo Arrieta was more pesky than effective, though the Costa Rican attacker’s constant effort gave the D.C. United defense a constant worry (and his teammates more room). Less than a minute into the second half, Arrieta got his name on the scoresheet, turning on a ball just inside United’s half and playing a long pass to Chris Birchall, who was making a run to the right of Brandon McDonald. The ball was long enough for Birchall to run onto but short enough to elude Joe Willis, allowing Birchall to put home the match’s only goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Arrieta wasn’t the only Crew player to stand out, particularly in the first half, when Dilly Duka was Columbus’s best player. While the Crew controlled much of the first 45 minutes, Duka was the only player who made their possession dangerous. Some nice skill on the ball and a much needed attacking mentality made the midfielder one of the first half’s few sources of excitement.
  • Although Columbus was best over the first half, the match was there for United’s taking. They just needed to forget this was a mid-season match, on the road, in July, right before the all-star break. They needed to pick up their energy level. Without that surge, Columbus was left unchallenged through the middle, only losing possession when they pushed into their final third (and then only of their own accord).
  • D.C.'s tackles won by half:

Screen shot 2012-07-21 at 10.31.09 PM
Screen shot 2012-07-21 at 10.31.51 PM
First halfSecond half

  • At the other end, D.C. provided little going forward and missed Dwayne De Rosario’s presence in midfield. DeRo started up top with Hamdi Salihi, with Lewis Neal in the middle above Perry Kitchen. With Nick DeLeon also failing to provide a creative spark, D.C. was stagnant.
  • United got to half scoreless, though Chris Birchall put them behind before the 47th minute. It was 20 more minutes, however, before Maicon Santos came on, pushing De Rosario to midfield. From then on, United as more dangerous.
  • Two big danger points: In the 80th minute, De Rosario created a chance for Long Tan (brought on for Salihi, pushing Chris Pontius to forward). Tan was send in alone on Andy Greunebaum only to chip onto the near post. The second danger point: Chris Korb nailed the same post in the 88th minute.
  • Though each team finished with three shots on goal, D.C. finished the match having attempted two-thirds of the game’s passes (at a 78 percent clip, 10 points better than Columbus). Over the final quarter hour, D.C. had a sort of futile dominance.
  • Ultimately, Columbus got a very Crew-like victory. They made almost no mistakes. They took advantages of their opponent’s errors. They were patient and adapted to the match they were presented. As a result, they got three points from one of their conference’s best teams.
  • D.C. United, on the other hand, should look at this match and ask “what did they (the Crew) do to win this match?” They’re going to have trouble coming up with answers. Columbus could have been beaten, but D.C. just didn’t play to their new standards.
  • Perhaps in time, Ben Olsen can build a team that can travel to places like Columbus, see a decent team that’s not doing anything special, and get the result. That’s part of a process, though, and given where United was last year, it’s too much to ask for that kind of consistency. Saturday as a reminder of that.