Just like that, Wayne Rooney and D.C. United are out of the MLS Cup playoffs after being beaten on penalties, at home, by the Columbus Crew in Thursday night’s knockout round match.
Rooney, Luciano Acosta and Nick DeLeon — who scored an equalizer for United in the second half of extra time — each missed in the shootout, with Rooney’s spot-kick saved acrobatically by Crew and U.S. national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
In front of a raucous crowd at of 20,600 inside D.C.’s jam-packed new stadium Audi Field, the hosts took the lead in the 21st minute through defender Frederic Brillant, who jumped on a spilled cross by Steffen to head in the opener from the doorstep:
Columbus roared right back, equalizing less than 10 minutes later. Justin Meram beat Paul Arriola on the left wing and cut back a cross that D.C. defender Joseph Mora could clear only as far as Federico Higuain, who was able to slide the ball past United keeper Bill Hamid:
Steffen kept the Crew in the match with a terrific late save on Luciano Acosta, and Higuain put the visitors ahead six minutes into the additional half-hour with a textbook glancing header inside Hamid’s post.
The Crew, threatened most of the season by the prospect of relocation to Austin, Texas after 23 years in Ohio’s capital before MLS announced that a deal to remain in Columbus was close, seemed destined to advance after that. They were the decided underdogs against a side that, with Manchester United and England legend Rooney as its catalyst following his midseason arrival, where the hottest team in MLS heading into the postseason.
But in 116th minute, United’s 2012 playoff hero DeLeon, who missed most of the last two seasons because of injuries, leveled with a first time effort off a failed Gyasi Zardes clearance:
But Columbus survived penalty misses by Zardes and Patrick Mullins in the tiebreaker. Gregg Berhalter’s side will now face the regular season champion New York Red Bulls in the East semis, with the Black and Gold hosting the opening match of the two-game, aggregate goal series on Sunday at Mapfre Stadium.
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