For the second year in a row, Zack Steffen made a pair of saves in a knockout-round penalty shootout to sent the Columbus Crew through to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
This time around, the Crew won a shootout over D.C. United at Audi Field to set up a two-legged clash with the New York Red Bulls.
The Crew had to fight back from down a goal in the first half, and thanks to two goals from Federico Higuain, they eventually took the lead in extra time.
Nick DeLeon scored an impressive equalizer in the final minutes of the bonus frames to send the match to penalties, where Steffen rose to the occasion for the second year in a row.
The 23-year-old Pennsylvania native stopped Wayne Rooney after Higuain scored to open the shootout, and he also stopped Luciano Acosta before DeLeon sent the final shot skying over the bar to give the Crew the victory.
Things didn’t look great for Columbus early on, however. Frederic Brillant scored thanks to an ambitious header on the doorstep off an Acosta cross in the 21st minute for D.C. Higuain scored his first of the match ten minutes later to level the score at the break.
Both teams produced chances in the second half, but it wasn’t until extra time that anyone saw a breakthrough. Higuain put Columbus in front in the 96th minute with a slight header that sent the ball past Bill Hamid and inside the far post.
United kept pressing on and got its equalizer when DeLeon smashed home a shot on the half-volley from about 20 yards out in the 116th, which set up the shootout.
The loss ended D.C. United’s season despite a late season surge that sent it to the playoffs. The Crew, meanwhile, advance to take on the New York Red Bulls in the two legged Eastern Conference Semifinals. The first leg will be on Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium.
Man of the Match
Federico Higuain scored both Columbus goals and started the shootout off with a confident shot before Steffen did his thing.
Moment of the Match
Nick DeLeon had the power to send the shootout into a sixth round, but he put his shot well over the bar to end the match in disappointment.
Match to Forget
Joseph Mora struggled with the Columbus attack for most of the game and failed to clear the loose ball to set up Higuain’s first of the night.