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VAR-y wild win: D.C. United takes down Columbus Crew 3-1 at home

Video Reviews, a penalty kick and an own goal were norm in a wacky match at Audi Field

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Disallowed goals, video review and a penalty kick were all part of a wacky first half that fell in D.C. United’s favor en route to a 3-1 win over Columbus Crew SC Saturday night at Audi Field. 

“It was one of those VAR nights,” coach Ben Olsen said. “We are going to say it is a great invention and they are going to say it is a terrible invention.”

About 20 minutes into the game, winger Leonardo Jara laid off a pass for midfielder Luciano Acosta, who ended up in a jumbled mess with referee Ted Unkel and Wil Trapp. The ball popped out to the Crew SC captain, who passed up the field before midfielder Pedros Santos slotted a ball past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

What followed was nothing short of puzzling. After more than a minute with his finger on his ear piece, Unkel overturned the goal, citing interference at midfield. Despite his own involvement in the play, Unkel penalized Columbus.

“No. 6 Trapp of Columbus commits a tripping foul against No. 10 Acosta of D.C. that is missed by the referee crew. This foul started the attacking possession phase for Columbus that led to the goal,” the PRO Referee official statement said. “The discussions were about a possible offside prior to DC’s goal”

While Acosta said he felt contact from Trapp that stopped him from contacting the ball, Columbus coach Caleb Porter had other thoughts.

“It’s a fair goal – 100 percent,” Porter said. “Referee gets in the way. Referee fouls Acosta and then the referee goes and looks at the television to bail himself out. I’ve never in my life seen anything like that.”

United (6-3-2, 20 points) caught another break in the attacking third seconds later when Unkel booked Trapp and awarded United a free kick. Forward Wayne Rooney lofted a ball in front of net and Acosta cleaned up in front for a goal. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen went down on the play and Unkel once against listened to his video assistant referee for the confirmation, but he wasn’t done yet.

In the four minutes of first-half stoppage time, Unkel originally let play continue inside the Columbus box, but awarded a penalty following a video review that spotted a Trapp handball. Rooney doubled the score with a rocket of a penalty kick to the upper right corner.

“Some of the football around the box and some of the chances we created [were] some of the best — in terms of creating chances — we have been this season,” Rooney said. “It was a collective effort.” 

Playing in a higher wing position, Jara caused trouble for Columbus (4-6-1, 13 points) on the right side all night. His hard work paid off in the second half in the form of a back-heeled assist to midfielder Paul Arriola, who was able to beat the outstretched hand of Steffen for United’s third goal. 

“It is a great position for [Jara] because he gets to show off his offensive qualities,” Olsen said. “[It was] a high work rate from him. It is a demanding position. I thought he was everywhere tonight.” 

May 4, 2019; Washington, DC, Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) scores a goal past Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen (23) during the first half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus pulled a goal back back in the 75th minute after a corner kick slipped through the hands of Hamid for an own goal. Rooney nearly got a brace minutes later, but Steffen dove for the save. 

With a game against LA Galaxy on Wednesday, Porter substituted off forward Gyasi Zardes and playmaker Federico Higuaín.

Meanwhile, Olsen made just one substitution in the game, bringing Ulises Segura on for Paul Arriola. Rooney and Acosta once again played a full 90 minutes. United ended a 307 minute scoring drought at Audi Field. The Black-and-Red host Sporting Kansas City Sunday, May 12 at 7 p.m.

“I don’t think the story necessarily should be all about the VAR,” Olsen said. “Our guys put a really good shift in. I think they took it personal. We got a little swagger back there at times.” 

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