A controversial penalty call early in the second half, converted by Andres Mendoza, helped the Columbus Crew top the Philadelphia Union, 2-1, and solidify their position at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The penalty, in the 51ast minute, was whistled by referee Mark Kadlecik for a handball on Philadelphia defender Sheanon Williams, who was attempting to block a Robbie Rogers cross and brought his arms up. The Union player pleaded his case, but Kadlecik stood by his call.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
Rogers grabbed the ball and pointed that he wanted to take the penalty, but Mendoza went to the spot in a scene reminiscent of when he denied Jeff Cunningham a chance to tie the MLS career goals mark two months ago. Mendoza then barely snuck his penalty past goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who dove to his left and looked to have made the save only to watch the ball spin under him and over the line.
The Crew’s Emilio Renteria opened the scoring in the 37th minute, redirecting in a clever Rogers cross from the left side for his sixth goal of the season. The play was started by Mendoza’s through ball to Rogers on the left side of the Union box. The US international’s cross found Renteria, and he one-timed a bouncing shot in over the line at the far post. Rogers now has four assists.
Five minutes later, the Union’s Veljko Paunovic equalized. Keon Daniel delivered a perfect corner kick from the right side, directly in front of the Nordecke supporters’ group, and Paunovic ran past Justin Meram to head his third goal of the season.
The Crew (11-7-7, 40 points) have now won four of their last five matches and have extended their Eastern Conference lead to six on the 2nd-place Union (8-6-10, 34). Philadelphia have a game in hand. They meet again in Philadelphia on Sept. 17
Rogers had taken a lob from Emilio Renteria and was trying to cut the ball back to the center of the box to Mendoza when the ball hit Williams on the left wrist as he brought his arm to his chest.
Crew keeper William Hesmer came up with a big save on Sebastien Le Toux in the first minute of stoppage time to preserve the win.
The match began 30 minutes later than originally scheduled. The Union’s flight on Friday was cancelled because of storms along the East Coast, and the team did not arrive until midday Saturday.
Both sides were without midfield mainstays on the night. Crew right wing Eddie Gaven missed his second straight game with a bruised right leg, and Philadelphia’s Brian Carroll sat with a right foot contusion.
Also out of the starting lineup was Philadelphia’s recent marquee signing Freddy Adu. The 21-year-old attacker came on for Danny Mwanga in the 60th minute.
The Crew next play away to the Seattle Sounders FC on Aug. 27, while the Union host New England on Aug. 28.
CLB -- Emilio Renteria 6 (Robbie Rogers 5, Andres Mendoza 2) 37
PHI -- Veljko Paunovic 3 (Keon Daniel 2) 42
CLB -- Andres Mendoza 8 (penalty kick) 51
Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Justin Mapp (Michael Farfan 60), Stefani Miglioranzi, Veljko Paunovic, Keon Daniel (Jack McInerney 73), Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga (Freddy Adu 60).
Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Nakazawa, Amobi Okugo, Zach Pfeffer, Zac MacMath.
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner, Justin Meram (Dilly Duka 60), Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers, Andres Mendoza (Bernardo Anor 76), Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann 70).
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Gehrig, Cole Grossman, Danny O'Rourke, Andy Gruenebaum.
CLB -- William Hesmer (caution; Dissent) 42
CLB -- Julius James (caution; Enters without Permission) 58
CLB -- Tommy Heinemann (caution; Dissent) 84
PHI -- Michael Farfan (caution; Reckless Foul) 92+
PHI -- Carlos Valdes (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
Referee's Assistants: Chris Strickland; Peter Balciunas
4th Official: Allen Chapman
Time of Game: 1:52