Neal winner pushes D.C. United into playoffs

Neal winner pushes D.C. United into playoffs

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Neal winner pushes D.C. United into playoffs

D.C. United looked like they might fall short of victory in their home finale on Saturday night, with the Columbus Crew showing the fight you would expect from a team battling for its playoff life, but Lewis Neal delivered a goal that not only won the match, but also ended United’s lengthy playoff drought.

Neal finished off a mad-dash counter attack in the final seconds of stoppage time, scoring off a perfect pass from Branko Boskovic after beating Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum  to the ball and giving D.C. United a 3-2 victory at RFK Stadium.

The victory, coupled with the Chicago Fire’s loss to New England on Saturday, helped push D.C. United into second place in the East. They sit just three points behind first-place Sporting Kansas City with one match remaining, and could finish first in the East with a win and Sporting KC loss (assuming KC didn’t score two more goals than D.C. United in the process).

The Columbus Crew looked to be in control of the match after first-half goals by Eddie Gaven and Jairo Arrietta (with Arrietta’s coming off a ricocheted shot off the post and off D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid), but D.C.  fought back on the strength of a Marcelo Saragosa equalizer in the 59th minute.

The Crew couldn’t afford to settle for a draw, and pushed numbers forward in desperate search of a winner, but the push left them exposed when D.C.  sent a long pass forward to Boskovic, who worked the perfect combination with Neal for the winning goal.

The loss ends the Crew’s quest for a playoff spot, a run that came up short despite Columbus showing considerable improvement in recent months since the arrivals of Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain. The death of midfielder Kirk Urso shook the team, but they rallied around that tragedy to make a playoff push that came up just short.

D.C. United closes out the season against the Chicago Fire in a match that will determine who finishes as the No. 2 seed in the East playoffs.

Here are the match highlights:

What did you think of the match? Can you believe D.C. United’s form since losing DeRosario? Think they are a legitimate title contender?

Share your thoughts below.

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