COLUMBUS, Ohio – The goal that may have saved the Columbus Crew’s season – the final two games will determine that for sure – was a combination of desperation, skill and luck.
And Eddie Gaven and his teammates aren’t complaining one bit.
Gaven’s header in the first minute of stoppage time gave the Crew a 1-1 tie against visiting Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and moved them to within one point of Houston for the last postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
“You’re not satisfied with one point,” defender Julius James said. “We wanted the three points but we’ll take it. It’s still forward progress.”
The Crew (14-11-7, 49 points) continue to work the late shift. Their past five winners have all come in the 86th minute or beyond and now they can add an important point, one that seemed destined not to come their way.
Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen was within minutes of adding to his league-leading total of 14 shutouts. He had four four quality saves and may have had some help when Gaven was tackled without a call on the left side of the penalty area by Chance Myers as the extra time began.
Gaven got up – there’s a metaphor in there somewhere – and worked his way across the field. He saw Emilio Rentería on the right flank and looked for an opening.
“At that point in the game, sometimes you have to take a chance,” Gaven said. “The team needed a goal. You make a run and hope. I didn’t have to do much because Emilio played a great ball, it had so much pace. I just tried to put it on frame.
“[Nielsen] almost saved it. I think he got a pretty good hand on it.”
But the ball carried just inside the near post and a costly defeat was averted.
“We didn’t give them too many opportunities throughout the game until the end when they had that one really good chance,” SKC coach Peter Vermes said.
And for a desperate Columbus team, that’s all it took.