Who knew that the solution to the Crew’s poor finishing has been standing at the other end of the field all season? Certainly not Toronto FC.
Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer snuck up on a corner kick in the 92nd minute and calmly struck for the tying goal in stunning fashion to help the Crew avert defeat on Saturday, salvaging a 2-2 draw at BMO Field.
“I do that all the time in practice; twice a week, maybe three times,”Hesmer said jokingly. “No, this is the first time I’ve ever gone up for a corner.”
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The BMO Field crowd was ready to celebrate Toronto’s first ever win against Columbus in 11 matches in a wild affair that saw the Crew take an early lead only to fall behind 2-1 by the break.
It stayed that way until Hesmer’s miraculous equalizer that set off a wild celebration among the Crew players.
“All I saw was him running around like crazy,” Crew defender Chad Marshall said.
It was a fortuitous goal for a club that entered the match with only three goals in the previous five matches.
First, Robbie Rogers was to take the corner kick with two minutes left in added time because Guillermo Barros Schelotto had been subbed for.
However, Rogers motioned to Eddie Gaven that his hamstring was tight, so Gaven went into the left corner. He avoided the objects thrown his way and sent the ball to the back post where Marshall, who scored the Crew’s first goal, headed it back toward the middle of the box.
As the ball was in flight, Hesmer sprinted toward the fray for an extra attacker.
“I was standing there and I looked over at the bench – I didn’t know this at the time – but all I saw was Ricci (assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren) pointing for me to go, but I guess the rest of the coaches were yelling, ‘No. No. No. Stay,’ ” Hesmer said. “All I saw was one person giving me permission.”
That was enough.
Marshall said he never saw Hesmer before dropping the ball back.
“I was just trying to put it back in the box,” he said. “I’m glad he was there. It makes a cool story.”
“I was trailing Chad. I was going to go up and challenge Chad for the ball, but thought better of it,” Hesmer said. “Chad took it in the air. I didn’t want to get in his way so I dropped off a bit.”
The pass from Marshall hit him in the thigh and fell to his right foot.
“I brought it down,” Hesmer said. “It was kind of underneath me then I realized I had a lot of time. I looked up and saw a little alley way and got lucky.”
Hesmer’s goal is the second by an MLS keeper in open play, matching the bouncing, long free kick by New York’s Danny Cepero that eluded the Crew’s Andy Gruenebaum on the artificial turf of Giants Stadium.
In a series of eerie coincidences, both goals were in the next to last game of the season, with Cepero’s coming nearly two years on Oct. 18, 2008. Cepero started that game because Red Bulls regular Jon Conway had recently received a suspension from the league.
Now with Toronto, Conway made his first start of the season on Saturday and had a part in the Crew’s first goal – a header by Marshall off a Schelotto corner kick – hit the crossbar then ricochet off his back into the goal.
Conway wasn’t around for the finish because he and Crew forward Steven Lenhart were ejected for a scuffle in the 71st minute. Milos Kocic replaced Conway and was victimized by Hesmer.
Despite the euphoria of Hesmer’s goal, the reality is the Crew (13-8-8) is winless (0-3-3) in the past six games.
“Maybe Will gave us the spark we need,” coach Robert Warzycha said.
With Eastern Conference leader New York’s 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday the Crew is a point back of the Red Bulls, who host New England on Thursday.
The Crew finish at home on Oct. 24 vs. Philadelphia and hold the tiebreaker over New York.