Federico Higuain celebrates the first of his two goals for Columbus. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Red Bulls will begin their MLS Cup push in the heart of Ohio.
They will take on Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference semifinals at MAPFRE Stadium Sunday, time TBD. On Thursday night, Crew SC survived a nail-biter at Audi Field, outlasting D.C. United in a shootout, 3-2, after the teams played to a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes in the knockout-round match.
Columbus won the shootout, 3-2, as U.S. international goalkeeper Zach Steffen made two vital saves against D.C.’s biggest names — Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta. Nick DeLeon, who had came off the bench to score the equalizer in the 116th minute in extratime, had an opportunity to force the tie-breaker into sudden death. However, he skied his attempt over the net and Columbus moved on to play the Red Bulls.
Federico Higuain, who connected for both of Columbus’ goal, converted his penalty kick, along with team captain Wil Trapp and Nikko Hansen. Gyasi Zardes had his attempt saved.
For United, Yamil Asad and Zoltan Stieber put in their attempts.
United, which has been virtually invincible here, drew first blood in the 21st minute on former New York City FC defender Frederic Brillant’s first goal of the season past Steffen.
Nine minutes later, Federico Higuain found the range to knot things up at 1-1, opening up an opportunity for more late heroics for himself.
Six minutes into extratime, Higuain tallied his second goal of the match, a header off a Harrison Afful feed to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
DeLeon, a second-half sub, scored a dramatic equalizer in the 116th minute as D.C. failed to clear the ball out of harm’s way. Zardes tried to head the ball out of the penalty area, but it went to DeLeon at the top of the box and he drilled a hard shot into the near left post for a 2-2 deadlock.