WASHINGTON – Ben Speas scored 13 minutes into the second half to put the Columbus Crew up for good in a wild 2-1 victory at D.C. United Saturday, the club's first win at RFK Stadium since September of 2010.
Josh Williams also scored his second goal of the young MLS season as Columbus secured a well-earned victory in their Eastern Conference opener and their second away win of 2013.
The Crew also became the first side to win in RFK in 18 matches, a stretch dating back to when Sporting Kansas City secured a 1-0 victory in the 2012 season opener.
Young Designated Player Rafael scored in his debut for D.C. United on a sensational half volley that hinted at the potential United saw in the 20-year-old Brazilian when they signed him on loan this offseason.
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid made seven saves to keep United in it, following up on last weekend's stellar performance in a 0-0 draw against the New York Red Bulls.
But just four minutes after Hamid made a pair of point-blank saves off a corner kick to keep it level, Speas punished United for one of the keeper's few mistakes of the afternoon for his second career MLS goal and first of the year.
Federico Higuaín sent in a curling free kick from the left that surprised Hamid and caused him to spill it. D.C.'s Brandon McDonald slipped while trying to clear it, and the ball fell to Speas, who hammered home an open shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.
In the 72nd minute, it was Andy Gruenebaum's turn to bail his team out. First he saved an initial header from Lionard Pajoy with the help of the post, then reacted to block a longer-range shot from Brandon McDonald as the ball recirculated and saved the best for last with a stunning stop on the rebound try from Dwayne De Rosario.
D.C. failed to threaten much in the final minutes that followed, and Hamid had to be at full stretch again in stoppage time to deny Dominic Oduro's looping insurance effort from the right.
United began the match with their most offensive lineup of the season, including Rafael, who was acquired from Brazilian Serie A side Bahia in the offseason.
But Columbus applied most of the early pressure and broke through in the 15th minute when an unmarked Williams headed in Tyson Wahl's free kick from just beyond the 6-yard box.
Hamid controlled the damage by twice denying strong efforts from Higuaín in the minutes following.
Between those efforts, Rafael leveled it for D.C. in the 22nd minute with a moment of brilliance, reaching Chris Pontius' header, turning on compatriot Gláuber and striking a low drive from beyond 35 yards that dipped away from the poorly-positioned Gruenebaum and inside the right post.
D.C.'s Nick DeLeon exited the match in the 30th minute with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
Both teams will enjoy a bye next weekend, with D.C. returning to action on April 5 for a tough trip to Kansas City, while the Crew will look to score their first home win of 2013 against Philadelphia a day later on April 6.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Andy Gruenebaum||Made plenty of saves to keep the Crew in it, and his stunning double save 20 minutes from time more than made up for his poor positioning on DC's goal|
|2||Bill Hamid||Matched Gruenebaum save-for-save on the other end, but had one more mistake than his Crew counterpart, which doomed United|
|3||Federico Higuaín||Didn't get on the scoresheet, but impressed with his consistent vision, touch and ability to control the pace of the game|