DC United and the Columbus Crew shared the spoils in the first regular season Major League Soccer match at FedEx Field, with Fabian Espindola missed a late penalty for DC United.
A show of arrogance from the misfiring Argentine saw his 95th-minute spot-kick easily saved in a tepid display unworthy of the occasion.
And having failed to beat the Crew for a fifth successive meeting, DCU missed the chance to move top of the Eastern Conference.
This was the second game of a double-header at the Washington Reds’ 85,000-seater stadium, following Spain’s 2-0 friendly win against El Salvador.
MLS new boy David Villa fired both goals on a night when his potential future New York City teammates Shola Ameobi and Frank Lampard were in action elsewhere in the country, for Nigeria and England respectively.
One star who didn’t get on the pitch was Columbus’ Federico Higuain. The Argentine, who scored twice as the Crew beat United at RFK Stadium on the opening day, sat out after picking up a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s draw with Real Salt Lake.
Both sides struggled to create openings early on, with Jairo Arrieta shooting awkwardly off target and Luis Silva whipping a free kick wide of the near post.
A glorious deep Cristian cross should have been converted by Chris Rolfe, who then flashed an effort wide on as the first period drew to a close.
Neither team could replicate the quality shown earlier by Villa though, and the two goalkeepers reached the halfway point untested.
The first meaningful attempt finally came in the 55th minute, and Bill Hamid had to be alert to palm away Bernardo Anor’s drive, before Ethan Finley lashed the rebound over when well placed to convert.
A Ben Speas cross was then deflected into the side-netting, but a crowd that had been the largest seen in the division all season – boosted by the prior international match – began to traipse away as a dull affair showed no sign of improvement.
Columbus were clearly lacking in the absence of Higuain’s influence, but a supposedly in-form United served up an inexplicably poor performance and only looked threatening when Tony Tchani hacked the ball wildly over his own crossbar.
That sparked the Crew into life and when Finley’s good work presented substitute Adam Bedell with a clear sight of goal, Hamid stood tall to make a crucial block.
Espindola, so often the star for DCU, had endured a quiet night, but he tempted Steve Clark from his line with a hanging cross, and the goalkeeper was thankful to his defenders for a clearance after clumsily failing to gather.
Finley was played in at the other end, dragging wide with the ball stuck under his feet, before the home side came forward once more.
Clark did rather better to hold Nick DeLeon’s effort, before United were awarded a last ditch penalty.
Bernardo Anor handled in the area after Conor Doyle had worked hard to keep the attack alive, and referee Hilario Grajeda pointed to the spot.
Former RSL forward Espindola’s penalty summed up his night, trying to execute a delicate dinked finish, but only succeeding in passing the ball into the goalkeeper’s arms in the game’s final seconds.
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