With a first-round bye in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs on the line, Columbus Crew SC put in their most dominant performance of the season in a 5-0 rout of D.C. United in Columbus.
The win earned Crew SC (15-11-8, 53pts) the second seed in the Eastern Conference and a Knockout Round bye. D.C. United, meanwhile, dropped from second to fourth in the East and they will host the New England Revolution in the midweek Knockout Round.
While the talk before Sunday's #DecisionDay game was the absences of Crew SC's Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain, their replacements Jack McInerney and Mohammed Saeid, shocked DC with a goal and two assists between them.
And after earning their first shutout since July in their last match, Crew SC earned a clean sheet for the second match in a row, completely nullifying a DC attack that had scored six goals in their past two matches.
McInerney thought he had the match’s opener in the 23rd minute. Saeid burst down the right side and cut back a perfectly placed cross that the striker caught cleanly. But DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid made a seemingly impossible stop from point blank range to preserve the 0-0 score.
But it would take the same Crew SC pair only two minutes to get their revenge.
In the 25th minute, Saeid slipped a pass to McInerney, who found himself wide open between the DC center backs. The striker took a touch, looked up and pinged a perfectly placed shot around Hamid, off of the left post and into the net for his second goal as a Crew SC player.
After 38 minutes as perhaps Crew SC’s best player, however, Saeid’s day would be over. The midfielder grabbed his hamstring and went down without contact, and was immediately replaced by Kevan George in the Columbus lineup as he limped to the locker room.
Columbus had no intention of letting up without Saeid in the lineup, and the club continued the dominant performance from the first half into the second.
Iraq international Justin Meram put the game away in the 54th minute, when he brought down a looping pass from the back by Michael Parkhurst, dribbled past DC defender Sean Franklin and slotted a left-footed shot past Hamid to make it 2-0.
But Columbus were far from finished against their longtime rivals, and Ethan Finlay’s night had barely begun.
In the 66th minute, McInerney slipped through the porous DC defense to give himself a one-on-one against Hamid. At the last minute, the striker tapped the ball to his right to give Finlay the empty-net finish. The winger smashed in a shot and pointed to his forward.
Just one minute later, Finlay would get one on his own. Cutting in from the right side, he turned DC left fullback Taylor Kemp in knots before knocking a low shot away from Hamid and in to bring the match to blowout status as Columbus fans chanted “we want five.”
The fans would get it, as substitute Aaron Schoenfeld slid to reach a Waylon Francis cross in the 81st minute to make it 5-0.