United 1, Crew 0
WASHINGTON (STATS) - Luciano Emilio scored in the first half to boost D.C. United's playoff hopes with a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. "Today was just about grinding out a result," said D.C. coach Tom Soehn of a night when his team was outshot 10-3 on a field soaked with standing water and patches of mud. "The team showed a real commitment to working hard and defending, which you need to do at this stage of the season. ... The guys grinded one out." Steve Cronin made five saves in his first start for United (9-8-12), which pulled into a tie with Toronto, New England and Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot at 39 points with one match remaining for each club. Of their three competitors for the final berth, United would only win a head-to-head tiebreaker against Dallas. Columbus (13-6-10), which saw Emilio Renteria red-carded for a late foul on D.C.'s Julius James, still remains in the best position to claim the MLS Supporters' Shield for the best regular-season finish. "I think we took the game to them," said Crew coach Robert Warzycha, whose team finishes the season at home against New England on Oct. 25. "Basically, I was happy about today's performance. We played a good game. Just nothing went in." United, which ends its regular season next Saturday at Kansas City, went ahead in the 17th minute after Emilio took Thabiso Khumalo's diagonal pass and chipped it over charging goalkeeper William Hesmer. Columbus' Danny O'Rourke attempted a sliding clearance off the goal line, but the referee's assistant ruled the ball had already crossed it. "I cut inside and then Luci made a diagonal run so I just slipped it right because everyone was following me instead of Luci," Khumalo said. "I looked at the linesman first before celebrating. Then I saw the linesman raise the flag and point down the way, so I figured it was a goal." Cronin, acquired on loan from the USL's Portland Timbers on Monday, then went to work, denying Robbie Rogers' half volley with a sprawling save in the 37th minute, and smothering Eddie Gaven's close-range header minutes later. "Obviously it's a dream start," said Cronin, signed as a replacement for Josh Wicks, who suffered season-ending knee and shoulder injuries Sept. 27. "Tom (Soehn) said at the beginning of the week that every game, we treat it like our last game. As long as we keep winning, I think we still have a chance." Renteria, who entered the match in the 67th minute, had perhaps Columbus' best scoring opportunity of the second half, but drove his 15-yard effort well wide of Cronin's right post in the 73rd minute. He would be sent off 10 minutes later for what appeared to be a leg sweep at James' ankles from behind. United's Jaime Moreno entered as a substitute in the 58th minute to become the MLS career leader for regular-season games played with one team. It was his 307th appearance for D.C., surpassing Cobi Jones' 306 with the L.A. Galaxy. "The window is getting closer and close," said Moreno, 35, of the prospect of a looming end to his career. "But I'm still enjoying it. We'll see what happens."