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.

  • elgringorico

    just got back from RFK and nothing can compare to the sensation of Neal’s last second goal.. unbelievable.


    • Nate Dollars

      +1. what a game. i was okay with a draw, but that pass from bosko was so freaking good, and as soon as neal hit the ball, the whole stadium went crazy.

      jumping and chanting at least 15 minutes after the game (i had to leave; don’t know how long others stayed)… very memorable game.


  • B-Real

    Great game. Amazing that DC are in second when they looked to be out of the playoffs after DeRo’s injury. And the Crew really turned things around, great to see them bringing in guys to improve their team, the east better watch out for them next year.


  • B-Real

    I just realized this was the second year in a row that DC was involved in a late-season playoff push game with desperate teams providing us with lots of entertaining soccer, last yer it was against Portland.

    Best games of the year?

    – DC vs Columbus

    – San Jose vs DC

    – San Jose vs LA



  • scott

    Andy Najar had the best game of anyone on the field that night. Perry Kitchen was a close second. His performance was bitter sweet for me. Now, I really wish he would have declared allegiance to US instead of Honduras.
    The only blemish on the performance last night was the bad communication between Pajoy and Santos. They never seemed to be on the same page with each other.
    But still a great win…


    • elgringorico

      Andy Najar is so GD gifted…Benny converts him to a defenseman midway through the season and completely locks it down. I mean you really can’t say too much about this kid… I will be sad when he leaves DC but he deserves everything!


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