COLUMBUS, Ohio – A 2-0 final score in favor of the Crew over FC Dallas on Friday wouldn’t, on the face of it, seem to come down to a game of inches. But that was the case early in the second half when Andres Mendoza stepped up to take a penalty kick.
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The Crew (1-1-1) forward struck the ball toward the goal in the 54th minute and it barely eluded FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman as he dove to his left.
In a battle of two scoring-challenged clubs – they had a combined two goals in four matches – it was a huge goal, particularly because Dallas (0-2-1) were already down a man.
“I got a hand to it,” Hartman said. “Anytime a goalkeeper gets a hand on it, the expectation is they’re going to turn it around the post. I got a palm to it. That’s why I was upset. It really could have been a game-changer.”
Mendoza, though, was patient.
“I always look at the goalkeeper to see which way he is going to go,” he said. “Obviously hitting it well is important, too. I always look at [the goalie] and decide. It looked like he waited for me. I need goalkeepers who don’t wait.”
[inline_node:332677]The goal would have been enough for the win, but Eddie Gaven added the Crew’s first from the run of play this season in stoppage time for the final result.
“I would have liked it if the goal had come a little sooner, but we’ll take it any time we can,” Gaven said.
William Hesmer made seven saves for his second straight shutout for the Crew.
“It’s not just him,” Gaven said. “It’s everybody back there. It was good team defense – something we’re definitely going to need to be successful. It was a good overall team effort. Even when their guy got the red card, we were playing very, very well. We kept it going.”
FC Dallas went down a man when Jackson Gonçalves had a pair of reckless tackles on Dejan Rusmir and Gaven a minute apart. He was ejected in the 33rd minute after getting his second yellow card.
“Sometimes it’s tough to play with the man advantage because you think everything is going to fall your way,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “At some point, we gave a little bit of the momentum to Dallas. But in the end, we controlled the game again. We had some chances at the end and we finally scored one.
“A win is a win,” he added. “Defensively, we played a pretty solid game against a very good team. Even before they got the red card I think we controlled the game.”
After Mendoza’s score – which was set up by Emmanuel Ekpo drawing a foul from George John – the Crew had a chance to put the game away a minute after Jeff Cunningham entered in the 61st minute.
He took a pass from Emilio Renteria and got free down the right side of the box with a chance to score his 133rd career goal and tie Jaime Moreno for the all-time MLS lead. It would have come against the team that did not renew his contract after the 2010 season and would have also been his 63rd with the Crew to break a deadlock with Brian McBride for the most in franchise history.
Hartman covered the near post and Cunningham sent the ball into the side netting.
“It was a good ball,” Cunningham said. “For a second, I thought I was offside. And then being just introduced into the match the excitement of the possible record tying goal – there was a lot of emotion into that brief three-seconds of action.
“I wish I had that one back, but I’m happy the team played well tonight and got three points. It’s important to steer us in a positive direction.”