By: Brad Friedman
No team loves scoring goals in front of its own fans quite as much as Columbus Crew SC.
Well, we’re sure other teams love to score at home too, but no club does it more frequently this year than the Black & Gold. Through eight matches at MAPFRE Stadium, Crew SC has scored 17 home goals, more than any other club this season.
Five different players have scored those goals and they have all come about in very different manners. Here, we take a closer look at each one.
Meram Comes Flying In
The League's top delivery man, Ethan Finlay, provided a great ball here, largely because of his patience. He took his time and waited for Justin Meram, Kei Kamara and Federico Higuaín to find space. With Kamara closest to goal and Higuaín coming in with a head of steam, Meram fell under the radar, making him the perfect target for a cross. From there, Meram strikes a powerful header to help send Crew SC to a 2-0 win over Toronto FC.
Francis Delivers, Kamara Finishes
It’s difficult to think that Waylon Francis could have delivered a better ball into the box. He saw the gap widening between Toronto FC’s Damien Perquis and Ashtone Morgan, both of whom were focused on Francis and not the wondering Kamara, and put it exactly where it needed to go. The cross headed straight to Kamara and into the back of the net in a flash, prompting Kamara’s ode to the old logo with his celebration.
Tchani: Right Place, Right Time
Pipa’s corner pinballs off two New York defenders, but the ball failed to be seriously redirected after traveling through a crowd of eight players. While the ball was in the air, Tony Tchani wisely slid behind the defense towards the unoccupied space to the left of goalkeeper Luis Robles. Once the ball arrived at his feet, Tchani was staring at nothing but twine.
Pipa’s Back-heel Dandy
Rafael Ramos put this play in motion with a turnover that went straight to Finlay. Pipa went to challenge Ramos prior to his turnover, so he was already in plenty of space only a few yards out. By the time he got the ball, Donovan Ricketts was looming and Pipa had to fire off a shot quickly – and that he did.
Meram Fires It Into the Upper 90
Just like the first goal of the match, Meram’s opportunity presented itself after an Orlando City turnover in its own box. Cristian Higuita did a nice job of intercepting the cross, but Kamara’s effort to get him off the ball was even better. Meram then showed some nice handles in close quarters, creating space for the shot, and put Crew SC up 2-0.
Kamara Gets Chippy
A lot of credit goes out to Pipa for setting up this opportunity. He was running away from Kamara and the net, but still had the presence of mind to throw a lobbed through ball towards Kamara as soon as he got to the ball. Given the difficulty of a chip shot, many attackers would have opted to deke out the goalie and shoot the ball from inside the box, but Kamara saw the opportunity for the chip and seized it.
Chest, Foot, Goal
John McCarthy’s clearance took a wicked bounce back towards the box, right to a sprinting Finlay. Philadelphia was caught on its heels and out of position, allowing Kamara to roam free. Finlay’s cross didn’t lead him towards goal, but Kamara stayed composed, settled the ball and fired away.
This ball went from Crew SC's half to the back of the net in just two passes. Both of those passes could not have been more on target. Finlay was Johnny-on-the-spot after Steven Vitória whiffed on the clearance, freezing McCarthy and giving Finlay enough room to slot it home.
Meram Will Not Be Denied
Meram looks like a freight train cutting through Philadelphia’s back line. He outmuscles two Philadelphia defenders and fires off a cannon that proved to be too hot for McCarthy to handle. Sometimes, there is just no denying an effort like that.
Finlay Hits the Turbo Button
Over a span of 10 seconds and two passes, the ball made its way from the foot of Steve Clark to the back of Philadelphia’s net. Kamara put forth a great effort winning the 50-50 ball and corralling it prior to finding Finlay along the wing. As soon as Finlay recognized Kamara’s control of the ball, he turned on the afterburners and blew by Fabinho with ease to set up the score.
Kamara Heads It Home
Kamara did well to create space and momentum for himself, but a lot of credit is due to Francis and Meram for keeping the chance alive. That opportunity was one poor touch and clearance away from dissapating, but Francis and Meram were patient and methodical in their ball-handling before Francis sent in the all-important cross.
Pipa Goes for a Stroll
Seattle’s defense was so prepared for another cross that it didn’t anticipate Pipa rolling into the box. He had plenty of space to wind up and find a spot amongst all of the traffic in front of net. Not to mention he had all of Seattle’s defenders chasing.
Kamara’s Finesse Touch
This was an impressive display of discipline from Kamara. He recognized Seattle’s defense was swarming him and the immediacy of the situation, so he calmly put it away as soon as the ball arrived. Hector Jimenez also showed some hustle in saving the ball that he eventually sent Kamara’s way.
Off the Side of His Foot
Meram played the role of facilitator on this attack. He made two slick moves to evade defenders and in the process, drew a lot of attention, thus deflecting attention away from Finlay and Kamara. When Finlay got the ball, it was essentially two on zero and an easy play to execute from there.
Follow the Bouncing Ball
Kamara sure does have a tendency to be at the right place at the right time, huh? When Kevan George got his head on the ball, Chicago’s defense became focused on him, instead of continuing to mark their respective Crew SC players. Kamara slipped away from Jeff Larentowicz and had a wide open look at goal by the time the ball arrived.
Pipa’s Stoppage-time Tally
With George and Kamara pressing so far forward, Pipa found his way into the small pocket of space behind them and took advantage of a loose ball. He even had the presence of mind to take a touch, settle the ball down and finish it with some power.
Finlay Sprints, Pipa Finishes
As we’ve seen before, Finlay can sprint with the best of them, and he did exactly that here. Well, he also got a bit of help with Leonardo failing to clear the ball, but Finlay still made a great decision with keeping the ball low on the cross and putting it exactly where Pipa was going to be.
Loughnane: "Our mission is to protect our guests, players, coaches, officials and staff."
By Andy Loughnane
I would like to start by thanking the 21,051 supporters that attended last Saturday’s sellout match against the LA Galaxy. As many of you in attendance or in the area know, our region endured thunderstorms on Saturday evening during the scheduled timeslot for the contest. The storm ultimately resulted in a rain delay of 2 hours and 15 minutes. There have been questions and concerns raised since the delay was initiated and I want to spend a moment this afternoon revisiting Saturday to simply stress that, above all, our mission is to protect our guests, players, coaches, officials and staff.
Weather delays can become an unfortunate reality for outdoor events. Our team and our staff want nothing more than to start at the scheduled kickoff time, and furthermore we recognize that weather delays can provide an inconvenience. Our sport provides unparalleled theatre, however one thing all open-air venues must safeguard against is the emergence of lightning and severe weather.
As the original kickoff time approached, our weather intelligence indicated that there was a high probability that a thunderstorm – with lightning – would travel directly in the vicinity of MAPFRE Stadium. In particular, we were concerned with the lightning strikes that were hitting the ground as part of this storm. Our Command Center is equipped with weather technology that can track each lightning strike and it became very evident that lightning would travel inside of the radius that MAPFRE Stadium defines as threatening. Once lightning strikes crossed into our protective boundary, we immediately reached consensus with local officials to make the announcement for all guests to take shelter in our approved protective zones. At this point, we initiated a delay in the start of the match.
Although raindrops did not immediately fall on MAPFRE Stadium, there were constant lightning strikes hitting the ground within an unsafe distance of MAPFRE Stadium. Although I appreciate the questions that have been raised as to why we did not start the match immediately at 7:30 p.m. with no rain overhead, the fact of the matter is that rain alone is not the single determining factor for guest/player safety. Ultimately the lightning struck the ground within one (1) mile of MAPFRE Stadium (and eventually rain directly overhead) and our protocols and safety measures to protect our guests to the best of our ability were in place.
The length of the delay was a function of the speed of this particular storm and the proximity of lightning strikes. Meteorological records will support that this storm moved slowly through our radius and was accompanied by lightning during the entirety of the delay. I know that information can’t return two-plus hours of your Saturday waiting for soccer, but it is important to note that as soon as the lightning strikes (not the raindrops) departed our protective boundary we made a call in conjunction with local officials, MLS League office, and LA Galaxy to start the match at 9:45pm after a mandatory warmup period was completed. We successfully prepared the pitch for matchplay and completed a 90+ minute contest on Saturday evening.
As we continue this early-summer homestand, it should be known that we took the safety and security of our guests into consideration as our number one priority on Saturday and our enacting of severe weather protocol was justified in light of the severity of the storm that traveled in our path. I know the delay was a frustrating one, but as you know the speed and behavior of storms can change without notice. Had we indicated that the storm would last for a specific duration we would have all been wrong because this particular storm moved slower than anticipated.
I want to close by thanking our supporters for your feedback and successful implementation of the safety protocol, including your patience during the delay. Each match is an opportunity to enhance the guest experience, so please know that we are grateful for your support and we look forward to welcoming you back in the near future.
It was a tale of two halves when Crew SC took on LA Galaxy at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night.
Los Angeles controlled the first period, while Crew SC took command in the second. Each club picked up a goal and a handful of substantial scoring chances, resulting in an evenly-fought 1-1 draw on Saturday night.
As they often do, the match numbers help tell the story, especially with such a change in momentum after halftime. Here, we break down the key statistics from Columbus and LA's first and only meeting of the season.
The number of hours by which kick-off was delayed. Severe thunderstorms passing directly over Columbus forced MAPFRE Stadium officials to send everyone in attendance to take cover before the match commenced. Players continued to stay loose during the delay and were granted an additional 15-minute warm-up period prior to the 9:40 PM kick-off.
The number represents the Galaxy's first-half shot total and Crew SC’s second-half tally. Each club also registered four on-target shots during their respective halves of dominance. Goalkeepers Steve Clark and Jaime Penedo stood tall and picked up a combined seven saves. The number 8 also represents Ethan Finlay’s assist total on the season. The midfielder leads Major League Soccer in that category, one ahead of Sporting Kansas City’s Benny Feilhaber.
Federico Higuaín’s second-half tally elevated him to 31 career MLS goals, all of which he scored for the Black & Gold. The goal was his fourth of the season, putting him in second place on the team behind League-leader Kei Kamara.
Crew SC’s second-half possession total. Though possession numbers can be deceiving, Crew SC spent a significant amount of time in the attacking half during the final 45 minutes and tested Los Angeles’s backline throughout. The full-time possession leaned towards Crew SC with the Black & Gold coming away with a 54.8% advantage.
Columbus Crew SC versus LA Galaxy – a match so highly anticipated we didn't have enough seats for everybody.
So we added more.
We have installed temporary seating on both the north and south ends of MAPFRE Stadium, so more of Major League Soccer’s loudest fans can support the Black & Gold.
More chanting, more cheering, more noise. MAPFRE Stadium is a fortress and what promises to be one of the largest home crowds will help defend it on Saturday.
Since the stage was added to the south end of the stadium in 2007, additional seating for an MLS match has been implemented only twice. In both cases, Los Angeles was the opponent.
The first expanded-capacity match was played on Sept. 30, 2007, when 24,300 supporters filled the stadium for a match that Crew SC lost narrowly, 2-1.
A year later, on Oct. 4, 2008, another expanded-capacity-size crowd of 22,685 witnessed an air-tight defensive performance from the Black & Gold. Crew SC limited the Galaxy to 10 shots and three corner kicks. Most importantly, Los Angeles was unable to find the back of the net while Crew SC did. Alejandro Moreno scored the game winner during the waning moments of the first half.
A win of this nature, one where much of the second half was spent protecting a slim lead, required not only smart defensive play, but a home crowd that carried the Black & Gold to victory.
“We’re excited to play in front of a full house,” Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said this week. “When we play in front of a lot of fans, the atmosphere is incredible.”
Don't miss your opportunity to be part of that incredible experience. We still have open seats and there’s one with your name on it. Come to MAPFRE Stadium, bring your lungs and help defend our fortress!