COLUMBUS, Ohio - On the back of a Bernardo Anor brace, the Columbus Crew notched a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union in their home opener, and started the 2014 season with the club's first ever 2-0-0 start to a season.
The opening 20 minutes of the match showcased the clash of styles between the two teams. Columbus looked comfortable to sit back in possession, while Philadelphia waited for counterattacking opportunities. A rash of turnovers in the midfield by the Crew gave the Union several of the chances they wanted on the counter, but neither forward Jack McInerney or midfielder Vincent Nogueira were able to convert quality chances in the early going.
Anor broke the deadlock from a corner kick in the 24th minute by powering a header past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Argentinian playmaker Federico Higuain provided a looping ball from the corner, and Anor streaked untouched through the Union defense to give the Crew an early 1-0 lead.
Neither team could convert on a plethora of chances for the next 20 minutes, until Anor added to his tally with a strong contender for Goal of the Week in first half stoppage time. After a Philadelphia turnover near midfield, Crew midfielder Wil Trapp found Anor streaking down the center of the pitch. The Venezuelan turned upfield, glanced at MacMath, and fired a left-footed blast from more than 30 yards out that bent to the left and flew past the 'keeper, giving the Crew a 2-0 lead before the half.
The Crew looked sharper in the second half than they did in the first, but could not convert on multiple chances to add to their lead. As a result, the Union drew one back against the run of play in the 62nd minute, when Sebastien Le Toux found space behind the Crew defense and played a cross to Leo Fernandes, who tucked a shot past Crew 'keeper Steve Clark to bring the Union within a goal.
In the final moments of regulation, the match opened up significantly for both teams, who made a collection of offensive substitutions, including the introduction of Dominic Oduro for Columbus. With two minutes remaining, Aaron Wheeler -- a converted forward playing defense -- came within inches of drawing the Union level, but could not get contact on an Antoine Hoppenot cross.
But neither team could convert a chance, and the Crew clung to the 2-1 scoreline, leaving head coach Gregg Berhalter's unblemished record with Columbus intact. The Crew travels to Seattle Saturday, March 29, while the Union (1-1-1) host the Montreal Impact, also on Saturday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Bernardo Anor||Was lively all game, and showed considerable versatility in scoring both with his head and on the midfield rocket|
|2||Leo Fernandes||The Union attack could not find the finished product until the youngster entered the game, and made an immediate difference|
|3||Giancarlo Gonzalez||Despite Philly's struggles, credit goes to Gonzalez for making a series of tackles in the first half to keep the visitors off the board|