Second-half goals from Marcelo Saragosa and Lewis Neal propelled D.C. United to their first MLS Cup playoff berth since 2007 and guaranteed that the Black-and-Red would host at least one playoff match at RFK Stadium after a 3-2 defeat of the Columbus Crew Saturday night.
Saragosa's 59th-minute strike came after Columbus failed to adequately clear an Andy Najar free kick. Brandon McDonald was able to control the loose ball enough to square it to Saragosa, who swung his leg and sent the ball flying past Andy Gruenebaum, who may have been screened by the mass of humanity in his penalty area.
Moments earlier, Lionard Pajoy had missed a glorious chance to equalize for D.C. by glancing Saragosa's cross wide of the far post with his head. United enjoyed the bigger share of possession as they pushed for a winning goal, which finally came in the first minute of second-half stoppage time.
A long ball clearance found Branko Boskovic, who touched it to a streaking Neal, who finished past Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum to secure the victory.
The win propelled United into second place in the MLS Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Chicago Fire, three points ahead of the New York Red Bulls, and four ahead of fifth-place Houston. The Black-and-Red close their regular season next Saturday at 4:00 p.m. with a road match against the Chicago Fire.
Gaven, who scored his 9th goal of the season, took advantage of some less-than-alert play by the home side when he pounced on a loose ball from Arrieta's blocked attempted header and thrashed it past a charging Bill Hamid into the net.
The home side thought they had a decent penalty shout when Chris Pontius went down in the box, but referee Edvin Jursevic waved play on.
Persistence paid off for D.C. United in the 39th minute when Nick DeLeon materialized at the far post to turn in Lionard Pajoy's rolling shot, which had eluded Andy Gruenebaum. Undeterred, Columbus re-took the lead moments later when Arrieta's shot deflected off the post, off Hamid's heel, and into the corner of the net.
United entered the match needing just a draw to clinch its first MLS Cup playoff berth since 2007. The Black-And-Red have gone unbeaten in five straight games entering this match, and have not lost at RFK Stadium since March. United can also clinch a playoff spot if they lose if the Houston Dynamo also fall to the Philadelphia Union Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.