Two free kicks prove costly in loss to Crew

A stunning goal in the MLS debut of D.C. United's prized offseason signing wasn't enough to sustain United's franchise record 19-game unbeaten streak at home, which came to an end in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew.

"Right now the team doesn't have a lot of the good things that we had at the end of last year," United coach Ben Olsen said. "I've got to get that in them very quickly."

The defeat, the first for United (1-2-1, four points) at RFK Stadium since March 10, 2012, was the result of a pair of free kicks, one in each half. Josh Williams nodded home Tyson Wahl's service in the 15th minute to put the Crew (2-1-1, seven points) ahead first, and Ben Speas was left unmarked for a second-chance shot off another set piece in the 58th minute.

"We seem like we're staying tuned in defensively," United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. "But we have to continue watching film and continue building because it seems like we're giving away too many chances."

The 22-year-old and reigning MLS player of the week produced another cadre of brilliant saves, but it wasn't enough. Hamid denied Federico Higuain with a pair of diving stops in the first half, and he displayed his premier form with a double stop in a single sequence in the second half, going right for Chad Marshall's side volley and back to his left to stop Wahl's rebound. He also leaped high and backward to prevent dipping shots from Eddie Gaven and Dominic Oduro from tucking underneath the crossbar.

"We're asking a lot of Bill Hamid right now," Olsen said. "He's a monster, and I wish I didn't have to see him make so many great saves."

Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was just as heroic. In the 66th minute, he scrambled across the goal to keep Dwayne De Rosario's header from getting inside the far post. Six minutes later, he was equal to Lionard Pajoy's header, a blast by Brandon McDonald and De Rosario's rebound that nearly squeaked inside the near post.

But there was little Gruenebaum could do in the 22nd minute when Rafael, United's 20-year-old Brazilian designated player, made the most of his first start.

After spinning past Glauber, a fellow Brazilian, Rafael pounced on a bouncing ball and found the sweet spot on a volley from more than 35 yards. The shot dipped and swerved, skipping past the diving Gruenebaum into the bottom right corner.

The strike gave a boost of confidence to a team that hadn't shown much offensive threat in the first three games of the year. But United will have to stew over the defeat for two weeks until it takes the field for its next game April 5 at Sporting Kansas City.