By Brad Friedman
A record crowd was in attendance at MAPFRE Stadium last night as Columbus Crew SC hosted the Portland Timbers in a back-and-forth affair that saw the visitors come out on top.
On paper, the match-up played out evenly. Both clubs had their fair share of promising attacks and neither Portland nor Columbus held an especially firm grasp on the proceedings at any point.
Down 2-1 after 50 minutes, Crew SC had several opportunities to equalize but the Black & Gold couldn't find the back of the net aside from an Ethan Finlay goal that was ruled offside. The numbers tell the story of a match that could have gone either way.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark made several acrobatic saves, keeping Crew SC within striking distance throughout the match. His most notable: sprawling to make a save on a wide open Diego Chará blast.
Striker Kei Kamara wrote his name in the history books with his 22nd goal of the season. He's only the 11th player to score 22 times in a single season. His diving, tight-angled header made Kamara the first player in MLS history to score against 21 different League teams. The goal also extended Kamara’s lead in the Golden Boot race, in which he leads Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco by three goals. Kamara needs only four more goals to tie Stern John’s 17-year old single-season club goals record of 26.
The number of crosses and corners Crew SC registered. Columbus put Portland’s backline on its heels and on several occasions was inches away from making Portland pay for defensive lapses. Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful did well to win balls on the wings and create those chances.
Crew SC held 59.5% possession. It’s not an overwhelming statistic, but Columbus moved the ball efficiently when it did have the ball, as evidenced by 416 passes and an 83% passing accuracy.
Last night's sold-out attendance of 22,719 was the eighth-largest in MAPFRE Stadium history. It was the largest since the stage at the north end of the venue was constructed prior to the 2008 season, edging out the 22,685 that witnessed Crew SC's contest against the LA Galaxy on October 4, 2008. The sellout was the fifth of the season at MAPFRE Stadium, tying the five in 2014 for the single-season club record at America's first soccer-specific stadium. Last night's sellout was also the third straight at MAPFRE Stadium, a new building record.
MLSsoccer.com's Dan Haiek and Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle preview the Saturday night match between the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew. Should the Crew switch to a diamond midfield? Is Fanendo Adi the savior in the Pacific Northwest?
BACK ON THE ROAD
Saturday’s match marks the Crew’s fourth match of May and third away from Crew Stadium ... the team is looking to snap a three-match losing streak and return to winning ways on the road ... the Crew is 2-2-1 in road tilts in 2014 and is unbeaten (1-0-1) when leading at halftime of those matches ... the Black & Gold return home for a May 24 clash against Chicago before a final road match of May at Toronto FC on May 31.
GREAT HONOR FOR THE CREW ...
The Columbus Crew announced on Monday that three players have been named to 30-man preliminary rosters ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, including club captain Michael Parkhurst (United States Men’s National Team) as well as defenders Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis (Costa Rican National Team) ... forward Jairo Arrieta has also been named as an alternate for Costa Rica’s provisional roster ... “We are proud of our players as they prepare to represent the Columbus Crew in their respective National Team camps,” said Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “The possibility of representing your nation in the FIFA World Cup is our sport’s highest honor, and we’re thrilled for our players that now have this opportunity. We wish them every success ahead of this summer’s tournament.”
... BUT LINEUP CHANGES REQUIRED FOLLOWING DEPARTURES
Michael Parkhurst (United States) and Waylon Francis (Costa Rica) have departed for National Team camp for their respective countries, with Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica) set to leave after this weekend’s match ... therefore, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has two spots to fill on the backline this weekend.
ADDITIONAL REINFORCEMENTS AVAILABLE
Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has several options to replace Waylon Francis and Michael Parkhurst on the backline this weekend ... in addition to veteran depth, the Crew recalled Kevan George and Ben Sweat from loan at USL-PRO affiliate Dayton Dutch Lions ... Sweat was on a game-by-game loan and started two matches while George had been with Dayton since March, earning significant playing experience.
The Crew returns home after a two-match road trip to face the Portland Timbers on Sunday night (5:00 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio). Before the two sides meet this weekend, here is a look back at their lone meeting in 2012.
The Crew kicked off a six-match unbeaten streak last season with a 0-0 road draw against the Portland Timbers. Andy Gruenebaum made seven saves in goal to deny the Timbers and help the Black & Gold to a hard-earned road point. The Crew would go on to secure 11 points from its next five matches.