About four hours after Cesc Fabregas missed an early penalty kick in Spain’s 2-0 win over El Salvador, Fabian Espindola flubbed an injury-time PK that allowed the Columbus Crew to escape FedExField with a 0-0 draw on Saturday night in the nightcap of a Road to Brazil doubleheader.
The evening's MLS match proved a bit more competitive than the international friendly, as the Eastern Conference rivals battled to a 0-0 draw in front of an announced crowd of 53,267 for the doubleheader.
Both teams were missing key pieces. United centerback Jeff Parke sat the match out with a foot ailment, while defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen served a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Cal product Steve Brinbaum stepped in for Parke, helping post a clean sheet in his MLS debut.
Columbus was missing three players of their own: playmaker Federico Higuain (hamstring) and Costa Rican internationals Waylon Francis and Giancarlo Gonzalez (World Cup duty).
The Crew carved out the game’s first chance in the 10th minute as Jairo Arrieta fired a low shot wide left after a good passing move opened up the United defense.
Handed United's attacking midfield role, Luis Silva was active early on and nearly scored in the 19th minute on a free kick he earned himself some 25 yards out from goal. The UCSB product stepped up to the set piece and curled a well-hit shot that flew inches wide of the top left corner of goalkeeper Steve Clark's net.
Fellow midfielder Nick Deleon had a golden opportunity in the 39th minute, but failed to connect with a loose ball just six yards from goal. Five minutes later, United midfielder Chris Rolfe would get his chance, but his driven effort from 20 yards out skimmed just inches wide of the far post.
The Crew returned fire in the 57th minute. Columbus defender Michael Parkhurst collected a pass at the top of the area and struck a low, driven shot goalwards which United keeper Bill Hamid did well to push just wide. Just a minute later, D.C. Designated Player Eddie Johnson would leave the game with an apparent injury.
Second-half substitute Adam Bedell had Columbus’ best – and final – chance of the match in the 80th minute, but his driven effort from nine yards out found its way harmlessly into the open arms of Hamid.
United was handed a golden opportunity at the game’s death, when Columbus defender Bernardo Anor was deemed to have handled the ball in the area. Fabian Espindola stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, coolly striking a “Panenka” – right into the hands of a stationary Clark.
Both teams head into the World Cup break with an eye on U.S. Open Cup action: United will travel to Rochester to face the USL PRO's Rhinos on June 17 while Columbus will play host to NASL side Indy Eleven that same evening in Akron, Ohio.