Following a 3-2 win over Minnesota United FC to clinch a spot in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, Columbus Crew SC - winner of one in its last four matches - opened the postseason on the road at D.C. United with an aura similar to 2017's postseason opener against Atlanta United FC.
Atlanta, which entered the 2017 Knockout Round with 1 loss in its last 11 matches, looked to christen its new stadium with its first all-time playoff victory. Meanwhile, D.C. ascended the Eastern Conference table thanks to an eight-match undefeated streak to end the 2018 regular season, including a 10-match unbeaten run at the newly christened Audi Field.
In a battle of two MLS originals on Nov. 1, D.C. opened the scoring in the 21st minute before Crew SC midfielder Federico Higuaín silenced the crowd nine minutes later with a rebound finish inside the six-yard box, marking the midfielder's third career postseason goal.
Both sides battled out the remaining 60 minutes of regulation to a level score, with things getting chippy along the way.
In the sixth minute of the first extra-time period, Higuaín took matters into his own hands - again - with a whipping header from 12 yards out off the cross from Harrison Afful.
D.C.'s Nick DeLeon, who subbed in at the 69th minute, eventually equalized with four minutes remaining in the second period of extra time to send the match to penalty kicks, a situation Crew SC fans recall fondly from 2017:
Similar to the Atlanta United match, goalkeeper Zack Steffenset the tone early, with the first opposing attempt courtesy of D.C.'s Wayne Rooney.
Up next for Steffen stood Luciano Acosta, who finished the regular season with 10 goals and 15 assists. Just like Rooney, Acosta went left, and so did Steffen.
Next, forwardPatrick Mullins, who was acquired by Crew SC earlier in the summer from D.C., witnessed his potential game-winning attempt ping of the right post. So with a 3-2 advantage, DeLeon walked to the mark for D.C. with a chance to force a sixth-round of penalties.
A hard-hit shot from a leaning DeLeon went opposite of Steffen but sailed over the frame, sealing a second consecutive berth in the Eastern Conference Semifinals for Crew SC and marking the second straight year in which Crew SC advanced through the Knockout Round in penalty kicks on the road.