COLUMBUS, Ohio — Playing its second game in four days, and in the midst of a 14 games in 60 days grind, D.C. United could have been expected to be a little winded coming into last night’s game against the Columbus Crew.
But with a recently dominating defense, United fought off a sluggish first half and Fred and Luciano Emilio scored unassisted goals in the second half unassisted for a 2-0 victory at Crew Stadium.
With its third straight win in MLS play, United (10-6-3, 33 points) drew within three points of the New England Revolution for first place in the Eastern Conference.
“In the first half, we weren’t good with the ball, but in the second half we made some tactical adjustments, which opened some spaces for us and we were better with the ball,” United coach Tom Soehn said.
The Crew (6-7-8, 26 points) dropped their third straight but remained six points clear for the final playoff spot.
United’s defense was stout the entire night and allowed the Crew only one legitimate scoring opportunity. Troy Perkins earned his fifth shutout of the season and is tied with New England’s Matt Reis of New England for the league lead in wins (10). United has not allowed a goal in 341 minutes.
“The defense did a great job,” Perkins said. “When they have nights like that it makes my job easy and predictable.”
United held the Crew without a shot on goal for the first 51 minutes. Columbus outshot United 14-11 and held a 5-4 advantage in shots on goal, but their only solid chance came in the 69th minute, when Perkins clutched Stefani Miglioranzi’s deflection near the left post.
“We withstood Columbus’ pressure in the first half, but they weren’t dangerous opportunities,” defender Greg Vanney said. “In the second half, we sent guys forward and when we got up by two goals we were able to defend it out and not give up anything.”
Fred, who celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday, put United on the board with his third goal of the season in the 52nd minute. He rebounded a header by Christian Gomez off the left post and crushed it left and high just inside the penalty area past Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer.
United took advantage of a Columbus lapse for its second goal. After Ezra Hendrickson intercepted a pass by Fred near the penalty area, he tried to clear it in the opposite direction. Then Emilio, who easily put it past Hesmer just outside the goal area for his league-leading 14th goal.
“We’ve been very good lately away from home,” Emilio said. “We have to look forward to the rest of league play and keep trying to put the pressure on New England.”
Notes — The team record for holding opponents scoreless is 382 minutes set last season. …
Midfielder Ben Olsen was scratched from the active roster during warmups because of a sore ankle and is day to day. …
United’s injury woes were compounded in the ninth minute when Josh Gros took a ball off the right side of his head and suffered a concussion. His status is day-to-day. He was replaced by Domenic Mediate.