The kick came two minutes after Columbus had a goal waved off when Edson Buddle was ruled offside.
Ross Paule scored for Columbus in the 19th minute, his fourth goal of the season.
The United (10-9-8, 38 points) were without goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Ben Olsen, both out with knee injuries. In addition, defender Mike Petke and midfielder Dema Kovalenko were serving disciplinary suspensions.
Columbus (8-11-8, 32 points) is fifth in the Eastern Conference and in danger of missing the MLS Cup playoffs.