The Columbus Crew are officially back in the playoff hunt.
After falling behind on Marco Di Vaio's 18th goal of the season, an inspired Federico Higuain provided the assists on second-half goals by Chad Marshall and Dominic Oduro as the Crew notched an improbable 2-1 comeback win against the Montreal Impact, who were at the top of the Eastern Conference entering the weekend.
Columbus snapped two streaks in the process: Montreal’s six-game home unbeaten streak and their own seven-game road losing streak. The Crew also moved just two points from the fifth and final playoff spot occupied by the New England Revolution before the slate of Saturday league matches.
After a nervy opening 15 minutes during which the Crew assumed the initiative and missed a great breakaway opportunity, Montreal recovered and settled into a rhythm, maintaining steady pressure on the visitors.
Two solid Impact scoring chances inside the box went begging in the 18th and 21st minutes, but Di Vaio made no mistake in the 23rd minute. A Justin Mapp short corner made its way into the six-yard box, where an onrushing Di Vaio made a run between two Crew defenders to score his first headed goal in MLS and his league-leading 18th of the season.
Montreal then tried to punish the Crew with slick movement and interchanging play, with fullbacks Jeb Brovsky and Hassoun Camara both pushing forward into the attack. But Di Vaio, Patrice Bernier and Davy Arnaud were all denied by Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson and his back four.
The start of the second half failed to captivate and the Crew failed to threaten the Impact goal until the 66th minute. Higuain curled a free kick roughly 35 meters away from goal to the far post, where Marshall outjumped Camara and crashed his header past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Oduro then shocked the Stade Saputo crowd with his 10th of the season in the 78th minute. Higuain cleverly got past right back Camara and, with the outside of his right foot, flicked a through pass to Oduro. One-on-one against Perkins, Oduro took a subtle first-time touch and watched the ball trickle into the Montreal net for the stunning game-winner.
The Crew will be back in Columbus next Saturday, September 21, when they face the Chicago Fire, while the Impact will be home as well, hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps. But a CONCACAF Champions League encounter at San Jose Earthquakes awaits them first this Tuesday, September 17.