Apr 14, 2018; Annapolis, MD, USA; A general view of Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium prior to the game between the D.C. United and the Columbus Crew. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — D.C. United showed a chemistry that had yet to be seen this season in a 1-0 win Saturday against Columbus Crew SC at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“I think the chemistry has been building up every single game,” defender Chris Durkin said. “The bye week helped us out and really helped us analyze what was wrong and how to fix it.”
The referee blew the whistle to start the match and United immediately went on the attack.
“That was a perfect start for us,” defender Steve Birnbaum said. “We wanted to come out flying, being physical and pressing them right away in the first 10 to 15 minutes.”
United did just that. Seconds into the game, defender Nick DeLeon found the feet of midfielder Luciano Acosta, who skillfully back-heeled a pass to a rushing Paul Arriola. With a quick touch, Arriola used the slick surface of the turf to place a ball across the front of midfielder Ulises Segura.
Segura put the home team on the board in front of an announced 12,396 fans just 43 seconds into the match — the third-fastest goal in D.C. United history.
“I am really happy with the result,” Segura said. “The goal is a good pass from [Arriola] and I thought I could hit it first time and it went in.”
He gave United the lead, but second-half defense lead by goalkeeper Steve Clark kept them in the game.
D.C. went down to 10 men in the 51st minute when referee Ismail Elfath checked VAR and changed an originally called Arriola yellow card to red.
“I was pretty close to the tackle,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I wasn’t surprised they VAR’d it. Obviously hoping they wouldn’t, but they did. I figured it was a good chance he was going to [get the red card].”
Did Paul Arriola deserve to see red?
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2018
Meanwhile, Clark, who previously played for the Crew, was in the zone against his former team and pulled off acrobatic saves in the 60th and 65th minutes. First, he stopped a diving header from Pedros Santos and then five minutes later reached behind himself to stop a low shot from Gyasi Zardes.
It was Clark’s first minutes of the season. He stepped up in place for an injured David Ousted, who received a knock to the foot in training earlier this week.
“[Clark] has given me a tough choice from the day he hit preseason,” Olsen said. “He has been just as good as [Ousted] throughout the preseason.”
With about 20 minutes to play, United switched to a defensive 5-3-1-0 formation with Ulises Segura as the lone attacking midfielder. Durkin, Oniel Fisher and Kofi Opare subbed in for Junior Moreno, Patrick Mullins and Acosta, respectively.
“The 45 minutes felt like a full 90 minute match to me,” Durkin said. “I think we dealt well with all of the conditions. Defensively, we had first contact on the ball on their service in the box almost every single time. Props to our center backs who were animals.”
United held off the Crew to collect its first win of the season in the final home-away-from-home match before moving into the new stadium, Audi Field in July.
“[The win] is a relief. I am not going to lie it has been a while,” Olsen said. “There has been a lot of hard work. You guys see the games and the loss. You don’t see the preseason and the time spent with each other and the amount of work we put in to come here and have this feeling.”